House panel backs 3.5 percent civil service pay raise

The House Appropriations Committee approved legislation Thursday that would provide equal pay adjustments for military and civilian federal employees in 2005.

The panel passed by a 42-16 vote an amendment to the fiscal 2005 Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill that would grant federal civilian employees - and blue-collar workers - the same 3.5 percent pay raise that military personnel will receive next year. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., joined with House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., and Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Jim Moran, D-Va., to steer the measure through committee.

"Military personnel and federal civilian employees work side-by-side and for the same employer," Hoyer said after the amendment's passage. "Our nation is able to deploy our air, sea and land fleets safely and swiftly thanks to the muscle and logistical support of both federal civilian employees and military employees. So it is appropriate to provide them with equal pay adjustments. In addition, a fair pay adjustment is needed to keep pace with private-sector salaries so the federal government can compete for quality employees."

The move counteracts a push by President Bush and a bloc of House lawmakers, led by Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., to provide a lower raise for civil servants than for uniformed military service members. Istook has said the government cannot afford the additional $2.2 billion that equal pay raises would cost. The president has said that ongoing military conflicts make uniformed personnel more deserving of a higher raise.

On Thursday, however, the pay parity measure received bipartisan support.

"Both the armed services and the federal civilian workforce are integral to fulfilling the role of government for the American taxpayer; both must be compensated accordingly," Davis said.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley, lauded the pay parity measure, saying, "It would help federal employees' paychecks keep pace with their counterparts in the private sector."

Last year Bush requested a 2 percent salary boost for white-collar federal employees and a 4.1 percent pay raise for military employees in his 2004 budget proposal. Congress overruled the president's request and granted 4.1 percent pay hikes to military and civilian federal workers.

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