By Kellie Lunney
June 14, 2012A Senate panel advanced a spending bill Thursday that sets the stage for an extended pay freeze for government employees.
The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its fiscal 2013 Financial Services and General Government spending bill, following the subcommittee’s lead by staying silent on the issue of a possible federal pay raise next year. The annual financial services and general government bill typically is the vehicle for such federal pay provisions.
No senators offered amendments related to the issue of a federal pay raise during the markup.
A House panel last week also omitted language regarding federal pay in 2013.
The lack of provisions in both the House and Senate bills does not necessarily mean federal workers will not get a pay raise in 2013. If there is not specific language affecting federal salaries in any bills -- either stand-alone or omnibus legislation -- then the president has the authority to determine a pay raise based on the Employment Cost Index. Obama in his fiscal 2013 budget recommended a 0.5 percent pay boost for federal workers, but if Congress doesn’t appropriate funds for a pay raise, it’s unclear where the president would find the money for an increase, effectively continuing the current freeze. Congress, with the support of the Obama administration, placed federal civilian employees under a two-year pay freeze that began in January 2011.
The Financial Services and General Government spending measures, however, are not the only pending bills that affect federal pay. The House last Thursday passed Homeland Security spending legislation that did not include funding for Obama’s proposed 2013 civilian pay raise. A few weeks ago, the chamber passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill, which would starve the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments of funds needed to grant some civilians a pay hike. Obama has threatened to veto both the Homeland Security and the military-VA bills if they reach him.
In addition, the House has voted for other measures that specifically extend the federal pay freeze. The Senate already has rejected some of them, although an extension of the pay freeze by the upper chamber is not out of the question either.
By Kellie Lunney
June 14, 2012