Final 2010 budget blueprint supports military-civilian pay parity

Language encouraging agencies to identify and eliminate poor-performing federal programs gets axed from the bill.

On Wednesday, the House and Senate passed a final version of the 2010 budget resolution that included language supporting pay parity for civilian federal employees and members of the uniformed services.

The final blueprint did not, however, contain a Senate-backed provision aimed at identifying duplicative and ineffective federal programs. The bill passed the House by a vote of 233-193 and the Senate by 52-43. It now heads to President Obama's desk.

The pay parity section backs an equal raise for civilians and military members, but does not recommend a figure. The amount of the annual pay hike will be determined during the appropriations process.

Obama in February requested a 2 percent increase for civilian federal workers and a 2.9 percent raise for those in the armed services.

In March, Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee overseeing the federal workforce, said he would push for a bigger civilian and military raise and mentioned 3.9 percent as a possible figure.

Asked if that was realistic, Lynch said in a statement on Wednesday: "Pay parity has been and certainly remains our goal. That being said, obviously, this is a difficult fiscal environment to try to predict anything precisely. The economic cost indicators that have driven the process in the past are not trending favorably, but I'm hoping for the best."

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, praised lawmakers for including the pay parity language in the final bill. According to Kelley, the principle of pay parity has been followed for the past 20 years.

"As has long been recognized, fair and reasonable pay increases are an integral part of making the federal government competitive in their ongoing recruitment and retention efforts," Kelley said in a statement released after the House approved the conference version of the legislation.

Meanwhile, lawmakers dropped a provision aimed at enhancing government efficiency from the final bill. House-Senate negotiators axed an amendment Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced that would have required agency managers to report to Congress within 90 days of the bill's passage on any programs that are "duplicative, inefficient or failing, with recommendations for eliminating and consolidating these programs."

The provision also would have directed the Office of Management and Budget to issue an identical report and would have required all Senate committees to hold at least one oversight hearing each fiscal year to identify outdated and unproductive programs.

The Senate last week approved a motion to instruct conference negotiators to include Coburn's language in the final bill.

"The removal of this amendment goes against the unanimous will of the Senate not only once, but twice," said Don Tatro, a spokesman for Coburn. "The amendment asked Congress to do its job, and they have said they would rather look out for the next election."

The initiatives were designed to complement OMB's ongoing line-by-line review of the federal budget to root out duplicative or inefficient government programs. Obama has said he expects at least 100 programs could be cut or eliminated. The president also has asked Cabinet secretaries to shave a combined $100 million from their administrative budgets during the next three months.

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