Copyright 2000 The Washington Post
September 5, 2000, Tuesday, Final Edition
SECTION: METRO; Pg. B02; FEDERAL DIARY
LENGTH: 717 words
Pay Increase Could Come With Rollback of Retirement Plan Levy
BYLINE: Stephen Barr , Washington Post Staff Writer
Although Congress returns this week
to wrangle over unfinished spending bills for federal agencies and programs,
most of the bread-and-butter items important to employees appear on track for
Pay, naturally, is at the top of the list.
and Senate versions of the Treasury Department, Postal Service and general
government appropriations bill for fiscal 2001 assume a 3.7 percent raise for
General Schedule employees. Once the bill gets to the White House,
administration officials will recommend how much of the increase will be set
aside for "locality pay." The locality pay formula strives to reflect
private-sector wages in urban areas, and if the trend holds, workers in the
Washington-Baltimore region will get a raise slightly higher than 3.7 percent
Federal unions had hoped for a higher raise, given the
budget surplus and strong economy, but that seems unlikely. President Clinton
recently signed the fiscal 2001 defense appropriations bill, which provides the
military with a 3.7 percent increase. With the military raise locked up, federal
employee advocates have little running room in which to make a case that the
government's civilians deserve a higher amount.
But the Treasury-Postal
bill would provide some extra pocket change for federal employees. The House and
Senate bills would repeal the higher contributions toward retirement that
employees have been paying since January 1999.
The higher rates were
phased in as part of a balanced budget agreement, and employees currently pay
0.4 percent more of their salary toward retirement than normal. A further
increase of 0.1 percent of salary was scheduled for 2001.
Treasury-Postal bill would repeal the higher contributions in effect as well as
prevent the further increase from taking place.
Because Congress appears
unlikely to block an automatic 2.7 percent pay increase for members and staff,
the bill would raise the pay caps for some federal employees in the Senior
Executive Service and other high-level pay systems. The cap on federal executive
pay would rise to $ 133,700 annually, from $ 130,200.
of the Treasury-Postal legislation would extend the government-wide child care
subsidy program, which lets agencies use budget money to help employees pay for
licensed day care. The bills also would continue the general ban on abortion
coverage in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, while requiring that
FEHBP cover prescription contraceptives.
version would require a study to determine the potential for providing federal
employees with paid parental leave. The Senate has not addressed the matter but
seems likely to agree to the study proposal.
In the Senate, a separate
spending bill, providing appropriations for the Departments of Labor and Health
and Human Services, would create medical savings accounts in FEHBP. Similar
language also appears in a patients' bill of rights bill pending in a
The tax-free accounts would let employees set
aside money to pay for routine health care and would come with an
insurance policy to cover major medical problems and long-term
hospitalization. But federal employee and retiree groups contend that only
people without health problems would find them attractive and that allowing
these people to shift coverage would undermine FEHBP insurance
pools and drive up its costs.
Two bills important to many retirees
remain stalled in the House.
The Ways and Means Committee has signaled
that it will not take up legislation to modify the "government pension offset,"
which reduces spousal Social Security benefits for numerous federal retirees who
receive a civil service pension.
House bills to eliminate or modify the
"windfall elimination provision," which reduces Social Security benefits for
some retirees, have not been scheduled for a committee hearing.
Daniel C. Adcock, the
assistant legislative director at the National Association of Retired Federal
Employees, will join us at noon tomorrow at washingtonpost.com for an online
discussion of what the recently approved long-term care
insurance program means for federal employees and retirees.
Stephen Barr's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
LOAD-DATE: September 05, 2000