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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Pay projections

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In 1982, military personnel got a 14.3 raise. White-collar federal workers, meanwhile, got a 4.8 percent raise.

In 1984, 1985 and 1986, military personnel again received higher pay raises than their civilian counterparts. Ever since then, however, military and civilian personnel have received the same annual raises. This year, for example, both groups received a 3.7 percent increase.

So here's the question that will occupy some civil servants' minds until President George W. Bush decides on pay raises for next year: Will 2002 be a return to the 1980s' pay raise gap or a continuation of the 1990s' pay parity?

In its parting fiscal 2002 budget recommendations, the Clinton administration projected raises of 3.9 percent for both military and civilian personnel. The suggested raises are based on "projected increases in the Employment Cost Index for private industry wages and salaries," the recommendations said.

However, if the Bush administration relies upon the formula that the Clinton administration has used to set federal pay raises, then the raise in 2002 would actually be 4.6 percent (see Oct. 30 article).

Bush can follow the lead of both his father and of Clinton in granting equal pay raises to military and civilian personnel. But he could also return to the Reagan method of improving military pay more than civilian pay. During his campaign, Bush pledged to pump an additional $1 billion a year into service members' wallets. Civilians will learn whether they can expect a similar commitment by next month, when Bush announces his 2002 budget proposals.

Bills on the Hill

Several members of Congress didn't waste any time getting bills introduced that improve federal employees' pay and benefits.

Here's a round-up of pay and benefits legislation that has been introduced in the 107th Congress.

Transit subsidies for all. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., introduced H.R. 135, which would require federal agencies to offer transit subsidies to all employees, wherever they live. Last year, President Clinton ordered all agencies in the Washington area to provide up to $65 per month to employees who use public transportation to get to work. Some departments, including Defense, Labor and Transportation, decided to give the same benefit to all employees nationwide. Moran's bill would order all other agencies to follow suit.

Part-timers' retirement boost. Moran also introduced H.R. 136, which would provide better retirement benefits for federal workers who ease into retirement by switching to part-time schedules. Unfortunately for some workers, a little-known provision in the federal retirement formula takes a bite out of their pensions when they become part-time workers for several years.

No automatic raises for lawmakers. H.R. 241 would eliminate automatic cost-of-living increases for members of Congress. The automatic increases have helped ensure that federal senior executives get raises each year, since Senior Executive Service pay is tied to congressional pay. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ala., introduced the bill.

Retirement age for firefighters. H.R. 93, introduced by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., would raise the mandatory retirement age for federal firefighters from 55 to 57.

Early out rules for military technicians. S. 155, introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., would change early retirement eligibility rules for military technicians.

Holiday hopping. Two bills would affect which days federal employees have off for holidays. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, introduced a bill (H.R. 62) that would move celebration of Veterans Day to Election Day every four years. Rep. Jack Quinn, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 157, which would make Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, a vacation day for federal employees.

 
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