Take this raise and store it

Monday - 1/7/2013, 2:00am EST

For every federal worker doing cartwheels over that still very-iffy March pay raise of 0.5 percent, there are probably plenty who are less than enthusiastic about what, for many, will work out to be less than a buck a day.

By now, most of the civilized world knows that America's trip over the fiscal cliff has been postponed for a couple of months. Since the last Congress (again) failed to approve agency budgets, most federal agencies continue to operate under a stopgap continuing resolution that expires in late March. Given their track record, the current CR will probably be replaced by yet another temporary measure.

One of the pending issues is federal pay. The House has voted to freeze it for another year (through 2013). The Democratic-controlled Senate will probably reject the idea of an extended freeze. Meantime, President Barack Obama, who proposed the 2011-2012 pay freeze, has authorized the half percentage point raise in March. That may or may not be blocked by the GOP-dominated House.

Although inflation in 2012 was low (the COLA for retired feds and people getting Social Security benefits) this month was 1.7 percent, important items — like health premiums — are up.

So what are people saying about the prospect of a freeze or even a tiny raise?

  • "Mike, I never work more than 9 hours a day (I'm on AWS) and have been in one Saturday in 31 years of service. I flex at least twice a week and generally am in Bank. Ct once a week. Recently, I have been trying to stay out of the office as much as possible. Living in central NJ is quite expensive, especially with a child at a private college. These pay freezes brought to us by our president — for whom most government employees voted — are not easy to take. Property taxes continue upward, commuting has gone up and although inflation is not a real problem, yet, things don't usually go down in price.

    "I have become very cynical about the government and not just Congress — they are so incompetent. They should be reviewed like we are and get paid only if they are fully successful — that's the basic standard we work off of. Take away the free mailing, make them pay for spaces at National Airport, don't subsidize their lunches (nobody helps with mine) and let's cut their staffs by at least half. If they want to cut, Congress is a great place to start. BTW, why do they get paid as much as they do? Also, all laws passed by Congress should apply to Congress — I never got that one. Anyway, I'll check in every so often, so keep the news coming. BTW, I know you've been doing your column since I started, how long are you going to go? I know, tough job, but someone has to do it." — Steven

  • "Mike, please don't give me a pay raise. Seriously, I don't want it nor do most of the folks I work with here. Why? Because I would rather be able to say I haven't had a pay raise for three years. I don't want the Congress-Critters to be able to say they were magnanimous and gave us a raise this year. If they give us the 0.5 percent halfway through 2013, then they will have the argument that we got a raise this year so we will forego one in 2014. I can hear them now.

    What does 0.5 percent mean to me? I am now at the high end of the GS scale. To enact 0.5 percent halfway through the year is effectively a 0.25 percent raise for 2013. This means I will receive a whopping ... $325. Or about $200 after taxes. Seriously. They can keep their raise." Steve

  • "Mike, in 1980 I was a very young, first-time delegate to the American Federation of Government Employees national convention in Honolulu. I know you were there too as a working reporter. You recall that when delegates were told President Jimmy Carter was proposing a 9.1 percent pay raise, they booed. Big time and for a long time. They were jeering because inflation was in the double digits (and going higher), and people couldn't buy houses. So much for the good old days. Now we have low inflation and the prospect of a 0.5 percent pay raise, if we are lucky! Again, I say boo." Rick

NEARLY USELESS FACTOID