President Bush signs 4.6 percent federal pay raise into law

Federal workers will get an average 4.6 percent pay raise in January, under a bill signed into law by President Bush on Monday.

Federal workers will get an average 4.6 percent pay raise in January under a bill signed into law Monday by President Bush. Bush signed the 2002 Treasury-Postal appropriations bill despite his year-long opposition to a 4.6 percent raise. The Bush administration, in its February budget, had proposed a 3.6 percent average raise, which would have been $900 million less expensive than the higher figure, according to administration estimates. Members of Congress, including Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., pushed through the higher raise, arguing that military and civilian personnel should get roughly the same basic pay raises. Military personnel will get a base increase of 4.6 percent next year, with targeted increases boosting their overall raises to between 5 percent and 10 percent. The civilian raise will be divided up between an across-the-board increase and locality-based increases. Based on the actions of past administrations, federal employees are likely to receive a 3.6 percent across-the-board increase, with the remaining 1 percent divided up depending on where employees work. Employees in high-priced labor markets, such as San Francisco and New York, will get higher raises than those who work in rural locations or smaller metropolitan areas such as Richmond, Va., or Huntsville, Ala. President Bush will decide how to divvy up the raise later this year. In a statement accompanying his signature of the bill, Bush made no mention of the federal pay raise. The $17.1 billion Treasury-Postal spending bill includes other key provisions affecting federal workers. The bill:

  • Allows a 3.4 percent raise for members of Congress, which would raise the cap on Senior Executive Service salaries. SES salaries are tied to congressional salaries. Currently, pay caps keep executives at the top three of the six SES pay levels at the same salary level. In eight cities, federal executives at the top four levels are all paid the same.
  • Gives agencies permanent authority to offer child care subsidies to low-income employees. Congress authorized the current child care subsidy pilot program in September 1999, but its legislative authority ran out Sept. 30.
  • Requires Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plans to provide coverage for contraceptives, but blocks coverage for abortions except in limited cases. "I am pleased that the bill continues current law provisions that prohibit the use of federal funds to pay for abortions in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, except in cases where the life of the mother is endangered, or the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest," Bush said.
  • Creates a new awards program for senior government professionals, mirroring the Presidential Rank Awards for members of the Senior Executive Service. The awards for nonexecutive employees would include cash bonuses.
  • Requires the Office of Personnel Management to submit a report to Congress describing the results of a 60-day telework pilot program the General Services Administration would begin immediately. Under the pilot program, GSA is to target employees whose jobs are suited to telecommuting and allow them to work for 60 days at a telecenter.
  • Allows air traffic controllers older than 56 to continue to work, depending on how many years they have served. Controllers who manage air traffic are now subject to mandatory retirement at age 56.
  • Allocates $5 million to the President's electronic government fund. In his fiscal 2002 budget request, the President asked for $20 million to fund e-government programs.
--Tanya Ballard contributed to this report.