New spending measure could ease funding of pay raises

A spending measure filed late Monday to carry domestic agencies through the rest of the fiscal year would fund most at last year's levels, but contains adjustments to ease the burden of providing employees with pay raises.

President Bush issued an executive order late last month granting white-collar federal employees a 2.2 percent pay raise in 2007. But with the exception of the Defense and Homeland Security departments, agencies have been operating since October under a continuing resolution that has funded them at the lowest of three possible levels -- House-passed fiscal 2007, Senate-passed fiscal 2007 or fiscal 2006 enacted. This arrangement, which expires Feb. 15, has left them with a tight budget from which to draw the extra money for the pay raise.

The joint resolution filed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., to fund these agencies from Feb. 15 through the rest of the fiscal year, would keep most at the same level they received for fiscal 2006. But it would include adjustments to cover a portion of the extra pay costs.

The adjustments would help with at least half the cost of the 2.2 percent average pay raise. The other half still would come out of agencies' accounts for salaries and expenses.

The language would apply to pay periods beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2007.

Thomas Richards, director of government affairs for the Federal Managers Association, said it appears this would alleviate some of the burden on agencies imposed by the stopgap spending measure.

The managers association sent a letter sent to House and Senate appropriators last week, urging Congress to pass a spending measure that "provides the resources to managers and supervisors to serve the American public with fortitude."

The National Treasury Employees Union praised the joint resolution filed Monday for setting Social Security Administration funding at $9.1 billion, an increase of $43.6 million over the amount that had been allocated by the Senate Appropriations Committee. NTEU said the proposed funding may make it possible for SSA to avoid employee furloughs. The union said it plans to work with SSA and Congress on the issue.

The 136-page spending bill is expected to come to the House floor on Wednesday, in an effort to give the Senate plenty of time to act before the Feb. 15 expiration of the existing resolution.

The Senate plans to take up the new resolution next week, which coincides with the release of the president's budget for the next fiscal year.

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