January 21, 2004

Lawmakers press Bush for military-civilian pay parity in 2005

By David McGlinchey

A group of Washington-area lawmakers called on President Bush Wednesday to grant equal pay raises to civilian and military federal employees in his fiscal 2005 budget proposal.

Bush is due to send the budget proposal to Congress in early February.

The lawmakers made their request in a letter signed by eight Democrats and two Republicans, including House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. The

Washington-area lawmakers represent tens of thousands of federal civil servants and have for years pushed to keep civilian pay increases in line with military pay increases.

In his fiscal 2004 budget proposal, Bush requested a 2 percent salary boost for civilian federal employees and a 4.1 percent pay raise for the armed forces. Congressional negotiators, however, included a 4.1 percent raise for both civil servants and military personnel in the fiscal 2004 omnibus appropriations bill. The House approved the conference report in early December and the Senate is currently considering the bill.

The White House did not respond to questions about Wednesday's letter and did not indicate if the president would seek the equal pay adjustments in fiscal 2005. While congressional officials called on Bush to seek equal pay increases, they said that the issue would be resolved on Capitol Hill.

"This is ultimately a decision for Congress to make," said David Marin, a spokesman for Rep. Davis.

In Wednesday's letter, the lawmakers also argued that the equal pay adjustment would assist with recruitment at a time when the federal government is facing a "human capital crisis."

"We cannot express strongly enough the importance of continuing the tradition of pay parity between military and civilian employees," the letter said. "We believe anything less than the pay adjustment proposed for military employees in 2005 sends the regrettable message that the services [civilian employees] provide to America every day are not highly valued."

Hoyer said that the eventual fiscal 2005 budget would most likely include equal pay adjustments.

"I am very confident that we will provide pay parity," he said in a statement. "Bipartisan majorities in Congress have provided pay parity for 15 of the last 17 years, demonstrating that it is an established principle of fairness that recognizes the contributions of both groups to our country's security and prosperity."

Davis "finds this to be an incredibly easy argument to make," Marin said. "It's a question of fairness."

The American Federation of Government Employees released a statement Wednesday supporting the push for equal pay adjustments.

"Federal employees who often work side-by-side with military personnel are crucial to our nation's defense, security and general welfare," AFGE President John Gage said. "As such, they should be afforded the same pay increases as those in the military."