- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005

The good news is that feds are likely to get a 3.1 percent national pay increase in January, even if Congress limits each lawmaker’s annual salary to $162,100.

The not-so-good news is that even if the civil-service raise takes place without a hitch, federal employees in Buffalo, N.Y., are in line for a bigger increase than feds in high-cost San Francisco and their colleagues in Washington.

Information worked up for the White House by the Federal Salary Council recommends a combination of national and locality raises that would be worth 5.62 percent next year.

Feds in San Francisco, now the best-paid in the nation, would get a 3.95 percent raise. Workers in New York, another top-dollar-paying federal town, would get a 3.77 percent raise. Raises would be 3.38 percent in Los Angeles and 3.44 percent in the Washington-Baltimore area, which has the biggest concentration of federal employees.

Buffalo would come in out of the cold by being added to the select list of cities that have their own pay rates. All white-collar federal workers get the same base salary and the same base pay raise each year. But whenever the president earmarks part of it for locality pay, another complex system kicks in to determine total increases on a city-by-city basis.

Buffalo feds, who long have dwelt in the RUS (government talk for the Rest of the U.S.) for pay purposes, would become employed in a locality-pay town, and get a raise to boot to make up for past pay slights.

Being in RUS — instead of having your own locality pay system — generally means lower pay and smaller raises year after year. That’s why feds in Austin, Texas, who are in the RUS make less money for doing the same jobs as their federal counterparts in Houston, which is a locality-pay city.

So, while the national increase is poised to be 3.1 percent, with a locality kicker for most places, feds in places such as Salt Lake City; Memphis, Tenn.; Las Vegas; Louisville, Ky.; and Nashville, Tenn., will be lucky to get a 2.83 percent increase.

Choose or lose

Sometime in the next two weeks, before the federal health insurance open season, you should take your doctor, dentist or the person who runs the office to lunch.

When the open season gets here, you probably will do what you and most other feds have done in past years: think about it for a while, acknowledge you are confused and then stick with your old plan, even if it no longer is best for you.

Equally foolish is to dump a health care plan that has been great for you just because premiums are going up. You may be jumping out of a good thing and committing yourself and your family to a year of not-so-hot coverage with a plan that doesn’t fit well.

When the open season comes along, check out at least two health plans at the Office of Personnel Management’s Web site at www.opm.gov and then run them by your doctor and dentist.

Mike Causey, senior editor at Federal News Radio AM 1050, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or [email protected]



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