Analysis: Local Lawmakers Weigh In On Proposed Federal Pay Increase | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Analysis: Local Lawmakers Weigh In On Proposed Federal Pay Increase

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The White House says President Obama will include a 1 percent pay raise for federal workers in his 2014 budget. The increase would come on top of a half-percent increase set to go in effect this March and follows a federal pay freeze for the past two years. As Alex Bolton, senior staff writer with The Hill newspaper explains, local lawmakers are saying the President's proposal still doesn't cut it.

So what are some local lawmakers saying about the President s proposed federal pay hike?

"Barbara Mikulski, the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says that it's awfully skimpy. It doesn't keep up with the cost of living. She says that federal workers have already taken big hits; they've already taken furloughs. She's urging the President and the Congress to support a civil service that is independent and competent. She's characterizing the President's proposed pay increase as very spartan. Her colleague in Maryland, Sen. Ben Cardin, feels the same way. He says the federal workers have made a huge sacrifice... federal worker pay decreases have helped to close the deficit by close to $60 billion. He says that it's time for the federal workforce to be treated fairly and that means he would like to see conservative, but reasonable growth in their salaries."

Is it likely that a pay increase of any kind will gain support in budget talks?

"Federal workers have a very powerful ally in Mikulski, who just recently took over as Senate Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. She will be in charge of putting together the omnibus appropriations bill at the end of the year or the stopgap spending measure that sets funding levels in 2014. So she'll have a lot of say over what the pay increase for federal workers will be."

"She's likely to face a lot of opposition in the House. Earlier this year, House Republicans passed legislation to freeze worker pay for the rest of 2013. Darrell Issa, who is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee says President Obama's push for a pay increase is 'not necessary to retain talented employees.' He says it just wastes taxpayer money. Issa's making the argument that the separation rate for federal workers leaving the government is at an all-time low, and that the pay increases are not necessary."

So are all local lawmakers who represent federal workers responding the same way to this?

"The senators from Virginia, who also represent a large share of the federal workforce, are taking a more cautious approach. Sen. Mark Warner, who is up for reelection in 2014 and was part of deficit reduction talks last year, says that he'd like to see more than a 1 percent increase. He says he suspects that many federal workers would take the 1 percent increase if it was part of a larger fiscal deal that would give them some predictability. So that they wouldn't have to worry about lurching from shutdown to sequester, and having their jobs in jeopardy. So he could see a deal where there's a 1 percent increase in pay in exchange for some certainty moving forward."

To what extent do you expect President Obama to discuss the federal workforce in his state of the union address tonight?

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