Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Pay Uncertainty

ARCHIVES
R. MACKAY PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC/Shutterstock.com

Lawmakers have reliably disagreed over the federal civilian pay raise for a while, whether to freeze or unfreeze it, and for how long. Now they’ve got differences over how much to boost military pay in 2014.

The House this week is considering the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which would give members of the military a 1.8 percent pay increase next year. The Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee marked up its version of the defense authorization bill on Tuesday, however, with a 1 percent pay raise for service members in 2014. The 1 percent figure is in line with the Obama administration’s recommendation for next year.

It’s likely that each chamber’s pay raise number will remain intact as the bills wind through the House and Senate. That means lawmakers will have to reach consensus during conference committee on how much of a raise to give members of the military in 2014.

As for a civilian pay raise in 2014, it’s still possible. So far none of the spending bills have ruled it out and President Obama has proposed a 1 percent raise, but it’s only June.

Additionally, both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2014 NDAA reject most of the administration’s proposed increases to TRICARE fees for retirees and other changes to the military’s health care system. Congress has modestly increased some TRICARE enrollment fees and prescription drug costs for retirees during the past few years but has opposed the White House’s more aggressive proposals, including establishing an enrollment fee for TRICARE-for-Life beneficiaries, who are aged 65 and older.

Retired TRICARE Prime beneficiaries now pay between $39 and $79 more in annual fees than they paid nearly two decades ago. At the end of 2012, Congress rejected an administration proposal to tie TRICARE fees to retired recipients’ income and impose higher co-payments for pharmacy drugs. Requiring TRICARE beneficiaries to pay more for their health care is a politically sensitive topic. No one wants to be seen as breaking faith with troops, their families or retirees, and military service organizations are a powerful lobby in Washington.

Congressional Pay

Lawmakers also are using their own pay as a bargaining chip. Some Democrats are taking a page from their GOP colleagues by introducing legislation that ties their pay to a political hot potato -- the debt ceiling.

The 2013 Pay Your Bills or Lose Your Pay Act -- based on the concept behind the No Budget, No Pay Act, which Obama signed into law earlier this year -- would prevent lawmakers from receiving pay if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling and the government defaults. The salaries of congressional members would be placed in escrow until the debt ceiling is increased or at the end of the 113th Congress, whichever happens first. The 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits a sitting Congress from increasing or decreasing its own pay, although it can change the pay of future legislative bodies. Supporters of these types of measures argue that placing salaries in escrow does not change the rate of lawmakers’ pay, and therefore is constitutional.

“If members of Congress are willing to let America become a deadbeat nation by not paying our bills, we should not be paid our salaries,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who introduced the Pay Your Bills or Lose Your Pay on Wednesday. “Our legislation would help prevent a catastrophic default by putting pressure on lawmakers to do the right thing and honor our nation’s financial obligations.”

The Treasury Department earlier this month suspended investments into the government securities G Fund, using one of its “extraordinary measures” to delay hitting the government’s debt ceiling. The government will hit the ceiling in September or early October, observers predict, coinciding with the beginning of the new fiscal year. Republicans have said they will not raise the debt ceiling, so get ready for some pay-related fireworks this summer and fall.

Kellie Lunney covers federal pay and benefits issues, the budget process and financial management. After starting her career in journalism at Government Executive in 2000, she returned in 2008 after four years at sister publication National Journal writing profiles of influential Washingtonians. In 2006, she received a fellowship at the Ohio State University through the Kiplinger Public Affairs in Journalism program, where she worked on a project that looked at rebuilding affordable housing in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. She has appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR and Feature Story News, where she participated in a weekly radio roundtable on the 2008 presidential campaign. In the late 1990s, she worked at the Housing and Urban Development Department as a career employee. She is a graduate of Colgate University.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.