Lame Duck Congress Checklist

Wednesday - 11/19/2008, 4:00am EST

Interested in the exact amount of your 2009 pay raise?

Anxious about the fate of the FERS sick leave credit bill?

Itching to find out of Friday, Dec. 26th will be a bonus holiday for feds?

Curious about the chances of reforming Social Security's "evil twins"?

Concerned by lack of news on the January cost-of-living adjustment for federal-postal-military retirees?

If you answered yes to any of the above, welcome to the club.

The lame duck Congress is in session (but not for long) and some cockeyed optimists think there may be good news in it for them. The reality-check answer: Probably not.

Also, some people (probably the same folks that were expecting to be furloughed in October) are now worried that, because of economic conditions, the federal pay raise or the retiree COLA are somehow in jeopardy. Not to worry!

Here's the deal:

Pay Raise:
The basic amount of the 2009 white collar federal pay raise is signed into law. It is 3.9 percent. The next step, which usually isn't taken until late in December, is to designate how much of that raise will be applied to city-by-city locality pay raises. Once that amount (usually its one percentage point) is designated, the pay wizards who look at local private sector wage changes will announce the city-by-city raises. For the 2008 pay raise, the Washington-Baltimore area came out with the biggest raise. In previous years, winners have included San Francisco-LA, Houston and Buffalo. Seriously. Buffalo. For a look at what happened to locality pay this time last year, click here.

Bonus Holiday:
No word from the White House. But it still an option. For the history of Friday-after-Christmas holidays, click here. Then cross your fingers.

Retiree COLA:
Despite the fears of some former feds, the regular-as-clockwork inflation-catch-up for retirees (federal and military) and Social Security benefits is in good shape. In fact, the January adjustment will be the largest since 1982. Here's the story: click here.

Windfall/Offset:
Often called Social Security's evil twins, the windfall and offset formulas can reduce the Social Security benefit many feds expect, and can eliminate the spousal Social Security benefit a CSRS retiree expected from their spouse's Social Security service. Both are controversial. Repealing them would be very, very costly to the Treasury. Even the election of a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress means any modification or repeal of windfall and offset is a very, very long shot. For more, click here.

FERS Sick Leave Credit:
Legislation that would give FERS employees credit for unused sick leave made it halfway through Congress this year, but time is probably too short for final action on it. It will come up in the new Congress and it has a good shot of becoming law. For a snapshot of the proposal, click here.

Live Health Insurance Help

At 10 am. today (EST) our Your Turn with Mike Causey radio show will be dedicated to a Q &A on the federal health benefits program. Walton Francis, editor of CHECKBOOK's Guide To Federal Health Plans will talk about the "best buys" during the open season. You can call him with a question, or e-mail it to me and I'll ask for you.

You can hear us live at www.federalnewsradio.com anywhere in the world. In the DC area we are also on 50,000 watt station WFED at AM 1500. Call in if you have a question. Our local number is 202-237-1037 or toll-free at 1-866-468-1050

Nearly Useless Factoid

There's a new world record. According to KETV in Omaha, last Friday, Eric Hahn broke the Guinness World Record "for having the tallest mohawk haircut. It measured 27 inches, beating the old record by 3 inches." It's good to have goals.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com