House Panel Approves Higher Civilian Raise Than Bush Wanted

The Senate has not yet taken up the civilian pay question, but the House panel's action sends a strong signal that a 3.9 percent average raise ultimately is likely to be adopted by Congress. A final resolution won't come for months, though, when the appropriations process concludes.

The pay raise would take effect in January.

"Our federal civilian employees' hard work helps our federal government meet the needs of all Americans," said Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), the subcommittee chairman. "They need and deserve to have their pay reflect their efforts." The American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union applauded the vote yesterday.

Federal salaries are an important part of the Washington area economy. The civil service payroll for the region is expected to be $30.1 billion this year, a figure that does not include the military, intelligence agencies and the U.S. Postal Service.

In February, Bush proposed a two-tiered federal pay increase: a 2.9 percent average raise for civilian workers and a 3.4 percent increase for members of the armed forces.

A bipartisan group of Washington area lawmakers had urged him to defer to the tradition of "pay parity," granting equal raises to civilian and military personnel. The lawmakers cited the civil service's role in fighting terrorism through agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.

Bush aides have argued against linking the raises, noting that the military gets an across-the-board increase, while civil service raises vary somewhat from region to region, depending on labor market conditions. Susan Bryant, a spokeswoman for the Office of Personnel Management, said yesterday that the administration stands behind its proposal.

But House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said the panel's vote for equivalent raises "is an important way to reward these hardworking individuals who make such invaluable contributions to the growth, prosperity and protection of this nation."

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