Senators propose 3.3 percent federal pay hike to start in 2015

Friday - 5/23/2014, 3:07pm EDT

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation Friday calling for a 3.3 percent pay increase for federal employees. If enacted, feds would see the increase from the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act go into effect in calendar year 2015.

"Hardworking federal employees did not cause our fiscal crises nor did they contribute to the legislative gridlock, but time and again they have been asked to pay the heaviest price toward a resolution. In Maryland and across the nation, these public servants, mostly middle class and struggling to get by like so many other Americans, deserve recognition and thanks for their hard work and dedication," Cardin said, in a press release.

Federal employees emerged from a three-year pay freeze last December, when President Barack Obama signed an executive order to increase federal workers' pay by 1 percent effective Jan. 1, 2014.

The 3.3 percent increase proposed by Cardin and Schatz would raise the pay of both General Service and hourly workers.

In announcing the legislation, Schatz said the federal workforce needs to be strengthened and encouraged.

"The knowledge, expertise, skill, and commitment of our public sector workforce are some of America's greatest assets," he said, in a release. "No other nation can match our public workforce's professionalism and level of accomplishment. ... Our federal employees bore the brunt of the sequester, enduring furloughs and a three-year pay freeze. Our bill would give these working families a raise they deserve."

House Democrats introduced their own pay-raise bill in March, calling for the same 3.3 percent, across-the-board pay increase.

"By investing in the federal government's most valuable resource, its talented workforce, the FAIR Act would begin repairing the significant damage that has been wrought on our overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated career civil service, while helping to ensure we can attract the best and the brightest to build the federal workforce of the future," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who introduced the House bill with Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Both the Senate and House bills call for a higher increase than the 1 percent hike put forward by the President's budget proposal, which was released on March 4.

Union leaders praise Federal Adjustment of Income Rates ACT

Federal employee unions praised the pay increase being proposed by Cardin and Schatz's bill.

"Federal employees have seen their standard of living deteriorate in recent years due to a three-year pay freeze, unpaid furloughs, and higher retirement contributions for newer workers," said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. "This legislation by Sens. Schatz and Cardin would help federal employees recoup some of that lost income and ensure the government is able to recruit and retain the high caliber workers that taxpayers expect."

Cox called the President's proposed 1 percent pay increase "pitiful" in light of the sacrifices made by federal workers in the last few years.

"Federal employees are on the hook for $138 billion in lost earnings thanks to years of policies that put slashing the deficit ahead of creating new jobs," Cox said. "A 3.3 percent increase would provide employees with a fair and meaningful raise for the first time this decade."

National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association President Joseph Beaudoin thanked Schatz and Cardin for their support of federal workers.

"Over the past four years, federal employees have contributed over $120 billion towards deficit reduction," he said, in a release. "It's time we thank them for their service and sacrifice, rather than continue to devalue it."

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, also applauded the legislation.

"After several years of pay freezes, unpaid furloughs and government shutdowns, it is time for federal employee pay to get back on track," she said, in a release.

Likewise, Federal Postal Coalition Chairman Bruce Moyer welcomed the proposal as a step to help address the pay gap between federal workers and those in the private sector.

"While private sector wages have risen 6.5 percent in the last four years, federal employees had their pay frozen for three years and only received a 1 percent raise this year," he said, in a release. "Three years of frozen salaries caused the public-private sector pay gap to exceed 35 percent, with federal employees lagging behind. Instituting a raise of 3.3 percent, 2.3 percent higher than that proposed by the President, will allow the federal government to compete for top talent in the workplace."

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