- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

Many federal workers are angry that their pay raise was delayed (first by congressional inaction, then by the White House) and still hasn’t shown up in their paychecks.

The pay raise started out as it has for the last 11 years. The president (first Clinton, then Bush) proposed one amount and Congress tacked on a little extra — with each percentage point increase worth about a billion dollars.

Last year, the president proposed 2 percent for civilian federal workers and 4.1 percent for military personnel. Congress balked and demanded pay raise parity (not pay parity) for the groups. It inserted an extra 2.1 percent into a veto-proof appropriations bill — but failed to pass it until Jan. 22 of this year.

Long after the fiscal year had started, the presidential 2 percent raise went into effect in January, retroactive to the first pay period of the year. For most, that is Jan. 11.

Congress passed its 2.1 percent add-on on Jan. 22 and the president signed it into law (as part of an omnibus appropriations bill) the next day. But it wasn’t until March 4 that the executive order, spelling out what the raise would mean on a city-by-city basis, was released.

Failure to approve the raise(s) in a timely manner will cost the taxpayers a bundle. Pay rates for each employee, which had to be recomputed and reset in January will have to be done again, now that the new raise has been authorized.

That will cost time and money, and could produce mistakes that will haunt agencies — and some people — for years. People who retired during the period may have the value of their lump-sum annual leave balances upgraded by 4 percent.

And it could mean some pension benefits will be adjusted upward slightly. It’s a totally unnecessary and costly problem created by the politicians and left to the bean counters to make right.

In the end, although it could take months, feds will get every penny of their new raise in a retroactive payment.

The federal pay raise (which does not go to members of the Senior Executive Service or the Postal Service) has a locality component of 4.42 percent to white-collar civil servants in the Washington and Baltimore area. It will be higher in San Francisco, New York and Houston, and lower in places such as Richmond and Norfolk.

That raise is in addition to the 3 percent longevity (within grade) raise that more than a third of the work force will also get for time in grade and satisfactory service.

To see what the new pay raise looks like on a city-by-city basis, you can go to http: opm.gov/Employment_and_Benefits/index.asp.

Mike Causey, senior editor at FederalNewsRadio.com, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or mcausey@federalnewsradio.com.

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