Copyright 2000 The Washington Post
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July 19, 2000, Wednesday, Final Edition
SECTION: METRO; Pg. B02; FEDERAL DIARY
LENGTH: 689 words
Under House Bill, Higher Retirement Contributions Would Become a Thing of the
BYLINE: Stephen Barr
Federal and postal employees may get
a little sweetener in their paychecks next year.
Appropriations Committee yesterday approved a rollback of higher contribution
rates that government workers have paid toward their retirement as part of a
1997 balanced-budget law.
Over the course of a year, the rollback would
put between $ 200 and $ 700 into the pockets of federal and postal employees,
depending on their grade level. That sum, though relatively small, would be in
addition to a projected federal and military pay raise of 3.7 percent next year.
The rollback effort began last week in the House subcommittee that
handles the Treasury Department, the Postal Service and general government
issues. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) offered a rollback amendment and--with
crucial support from Reps. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and John E. Sununu
(R-N.H.)--got the measure attached to the panel's $ 29.1 billion spending bill.
Hoyer and Wolf contended that the higher contribution levels should be
rolled back because deficit-reduction pressures have eased and the goal of a
balanced budget was met faster than anticipated.
But the Hoyer amendment
drew some opposition. The critics said any rollback should be handled by the
House Government Reform Committee, which oversees federal employee issues.
Yesterday, in an apparent effort at compromise, Rep. Jim Kolbe
(R-Ariz.), the spending bill's manager, offered an amendment that said members
of Congress would continue to pay the higher retirement contribution rate, even
though federal employees would not.
Kolbe's amendment was approved on a
voice vote, though Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) complained that he was "not
prepared to say my first priority is federal employees."
bill falls about $ 1.4 billion short of meeting Democratic priorities and would
stop work on the Food and Drug Administration's consolidation project in
Montgomery County, halt the planned construction of a new Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms headquarters building in the District and stop renovation
work at the National Archives building. The bill also would leave the Internal
Revenue Service short of cash and would force it to abolish more than 2,000
As part of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, federal and postal
employees were required to pay more toward their retirement from 1999 through
2001. Employee contributions increased by 0.25 percent of salary in January 1999
and by a further 0.15 percent this year. An additional 0.1 percent increase is
scheduled for January.
Hoyer's amendment would roll back the
contribution rates to pre-1999 levels (7 percent of salary for most Civil
Service Retirement System employees and 8 percent for Federal Employees
Retirement System workers).
The Hoyer proposal mirrors legislation
introduced earlier by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes
The Treasury-Postal spending bill also would extend a
previously approved provision allowing contraceptive coverage
in health plans participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
It would continue a ban on the use of FEHBP funds to pay for an abortion.
Federal agencies find it increasingly difficult
to compete with technology companies, in part because civil service salaries for
people with computer skills lag behind the private sector.
Rep. David E.
Price (D-N.C.) hopes to address the problem for agencies with offices in North
Carolina's Research Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), Louisville, Nashville
and Las Vegas.
Price attached a provision to the Treasury-Postal
spending bill that would authorize the Federal Salary Council to study whether
these areas should be designated as eligible for "locality pay" increases under
a 1990 law aimed at closing the gap between federal and private-sector salaries.
If approved for increased locality pay, employees in the five areas
could get a boost in their pay in January 2002.
Please join me for an online discussion at noon today on
Stephen Barr's e-mail address is email@example.com.
July 19, 2000