Paying 2013 prices with 2010 dollars

Friday - 8/30/2013, 2:00am EDT

Although the pay and benefits are good and the work steady, a growing number of federal workers say once the economy improves, they're gone!

Many are eligible to retire, but have been waiting to pull the plug. Others say they'll take their chances in the private sector where life is better. Pay, or rather the lack of pay raises, is definitely an issue.

It's been so long since they've had an across-the-board pay raise that many white-collar feds have forgotten what it's like and how the process works. When it works! No wonder.

For years, the pay raises were on automatic pilot. The president proposed an amount (usually less than called for under the pay law's guidelines) and Congress either raised the amount or OK'd the proposal. Gone are the days!

Then the recession hit.

President Obama set up a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission (the Simpson-Bowles group) that was supposed to come up with tough cuts Congress would deal with in an up-or-down vote. It was modeled on the highly-successful (from a political standpoint) BRAC group that realigned and closed many defense operations. BRAC worked; the Simpson-Bowles group didn't. But it left behind a lot of suggestions (like a health-insurance voucher plan for federal workers and retirees) that are likely to be revived on a piecemeal basis.

The Simpson-Bowles group did suggest a three-year federal pay freeze. The president made it two years instead. Congress added the third year (2013) later. We are now fast approaching year four.

The 2014 federal raise (if any) is definitely a work in progress. It is a low-priority or distasteful issue to most politicians. Also, Congress this year has taken what may be a record number of vacation days.

The president proposed a 1 percent raise in his budget. He said extending the freeze would be unfair and unwise.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has OK'd a 1 percent raise for civilian workers of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and other Defense Department components. That's about half the federal civilian workforce.

The House has also approved a 1.8 percent military pay raise, but nothing, so far, for civilians.

Unions representing federal civilians will argue for pay-raise "parity" with the military. How successful they will be is anybody's guess.

The president, by law, could also act on his own. He has until the end of the month to recommend a raise for civilians.

(To further complicate the picture the federal pay law (FEPCA) says that if the president does not propose a pay raise shortly, feds would automatically get a raise next January. Currently that default raise would be for 1.3 percent. Congress could, of course, raise, lower or block it.)

So workers don't know if they are going to get a raise next January, and if so how much. Even if it is the maximum possible, any 2014 pay raise is unlikely to keep pace with new, higher health insurance premiums. They've gone up every year, even though most workers are now paying 2013 premiums with their 2010- level salary.

Stay tuned, but don't get overly excited!


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

In the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz, when the Scarecrow receives his diploma from the wizard, he actually states the Pythagorean Theorem (used to calculate the sides of a right triangle) incorrectly. So much for those brains ....

(Source: Flavorwire)


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Performance ratings - Judge not, lest ye be judged?
Good manners tell us we shouldn't judge people. But in the federal HR world, performance rating systems are built around judging others.

Agencies' 2015 budget planning 'tied up in knots' by uncertainty
With the budget situation for fiscal 2014 still murky, how can agencies already be planning for the following year? Former OMB Official Robert Shea says agencies have become accustomed to widespread budget uncertainty. They will submit preliminary plans to the Office of Management and Budget next month.

GPO chief says its time to update agency name to reflect digital pushGPO chief says its time to update agency name to reflect digital push
Davita Vance-Cooks, the new head of the agency, says there's a more accurate name for the work GPO does today: Government Publishing Office.