House appropriators approve 3.5 percent civilian pay raise

A House panel late Monday backed a bill granting civilian federal employees a 2008 pay raise of 3.5 percent, a figure equal to the adjustment already authorized in the House for the military.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the raise in the markup of the fiscal 2008 financial services appropriations bill. The adjustment is half a percent higher than the increase proposed by the Bush administration, which recently issued a policy statement opposing the additional 0.5 percent on the grounds that it is unnecessary.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., praised the measure for providing pay parity for military and civilian employees. This "reflects the conviction that compensation for civilian federal employees must be sufficient to support efforts to attract and retain the best employees," Hoyer said. "As an increasing number of employees become eligible for retirement, the government must have the ability to hire quality employees to avert a human capital crisis."

Hoyer cited Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicating that there is a 32 percent pay gap between civilian federal employees and their private sector counterparts in some parts of the nation, and an estimated 10 percent gap between military service members and private sector employees.

"Pay parity also recognizes that pay for civilian and military employees simply has not kept pace with increases in the private sector," he said. "I will continue to work to secure a fair pay adjustment for federal employees in recognition of their service to our country."

Approval of the raise also drew praise from federal labor unions, which have been lobbying for parity as well as a raise higher than the president's request. The National Treasury Employees Union pushed for a 3.5 percent raise, while the American Federation of Government Employees lobbied for 4 percent.

"A fair and competitive pay raise for federal civilian workers is one of the key factors in making it possible for government agencies not [only] to recruit the high-quality employees they so clearly need, but to retain them as well," said NTEU President Colleen Kelley.

The full House is expected to consider the pay raise when it takes up the appropriations bill next week.

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