Advocates take pay parity fight to appropriations panel

A group of eight House members is continuing the annual push for equal military and civilian federal pay adjustments.

A bipartisan group of House members appealed Monday to the House Appropriations Committee in support of the perennial military-civilian pay parity cause.

A letter was sent to Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., and Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the panel's ranking member. The committee is developing the fiscal 2006 appropriations bill covering the Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development departments, the judiciary and the District of Columbia. The bill contains pay guidance for the federal workforce.

"Congress has worked together through the appropriations process to ensure adequate pay adjustments for both federal civilian employees and members of the uniformed services, and in nearly every year over the last two decades, the annual pay adjustments have been identical," the letter said. "We firmly believe it is imperative to continue this tradition in the coming fiscal year due to the essential service military and civilian employees provide to our nation and the vast wage gap that exists between public and private sector wages."

The letter was signed by House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va.; House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Reps. John Porter, R-Nev.; Jim Moran, D-Va.; Frank Wolf, R-Va.; Al Wynn, D-Md.; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.

The pay parity issue has come up for several years in a row after the White House puts forward its budget. President Bush has proposed several budgets with higher raises for uniformed personnel, but Congress historically has backed equal pay raises for civilians. For fiscal 2005, President Bush sought a 1.5 percent average pay increase for federal workers and 3.5 percent for military service members. In the end, lawmakers decided to give both groups 3.5 percent.

President Bush proposed a 3.1 percent raise for military members and a 2.3 percent average increase for civilian federal employees in his fiscal 2006 budget.

"While pay is not the only factor in recruitment and retention, the vast size of the wage gap that currently exists between the public and private sector will continue to severely hamper our efforts," the letter said. "The federal government may never be able to compete with the private sector, dollar for dollar, but we must ensure that we do not fall further behind in the battle for talent."