House members urge pay parity, larger 2008 raise

Ten House members from the Washington area on Monday kicked off discussions over the 2008 federal pay raise by sending President Bush a letter calling for civilian-military parity.

The lawmakers asked Bush to incorporate the principle of pay parity in his fiscal 2008 budget request, scheduled to be released Feb. 5. The appeal was similar to those issued during past budget cycles, and noted that civilian federal employees and military members have received equal raises almost every year for the past two decades.

"As we fight the war on terrorism at home and abroad, both the armed services and the federal civilian workforce are integral to fulfilling the role of government for the American people," the members wrote. "An equal pay adjustment in 2008 will send the important message that the services civilians and military personnel provide to America every day are highly valued."

As in past years, the lawmakers said parity also is necessary to recruit and retain quality employees in the face of an upcoming retirement wave.

A 2004 law mandates military pay raises equal to the change in the Labor Department's annual Employment Cost Index for the private sector's wages. That change was 3 percent according to figures released in late October, making that the adjustment both the military and civilians would get in 2008 if pay parity is granted.

The president of one of the larger unions representing federal employees on Monday issued a statement supporting the call for pay parity and seeking an adequate raise. The 2.2 percent increase granted civilians and the military for 2007 was the smallest in 18 years, said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

"Fair pay is a crucial element in attracting and retaining the talented employees federal agencies require if they are going to meet the public's needs and expectations," Kelley said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., one of the lawmakers who signed Monday's letter, also expressed disappointment in this year's raise, adding he hopes Bush will request a big enough 2008 boost to make up for the "unacceptably low adjustment" and show "how vital the federal workforce is in protecting and advancing our nation's interests."

The other signatories of the letter were Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.; and Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va.; James Moran, D-Va.; Frank Wolf, R-Va.; Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Md.; John Sarbanes, D-Md.; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; and Albert Wynn, D-Md.

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