Congress may restore pay raise for federal workers


WASHINGTON -- Federal workers, who would take a hit in the paycheck from President Clinton's budget proposal, may get part of the hit back.

There is a move in Congress to restore the so-called locality pay increase, scheduled for next Jan. 1, that President Clinton proposed to freeze.

Until the president made his budget proposals, federal workers -- including 300,000 in Maryland -- were scheduled to get two raises in the coming year.

One would have been the annual across-the-board raise pegged to the average private-sector raise. The second would have been the first of nine annual raises designed to make the pay of federal workers comparable to salaries in the private sector, what hs known as the "locality" pay raise.

The Senate and House budget committees adopted language this week suggesting that Congress will find a way later this year to finance the raise by making cuts elsewhere, thus preserving the savings the president sought with the pay freeze.

Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the Appropriations Committee, said the Clinton administration has agreed to a restoration of the locality raise provided cuts are made elsewhere.

"In a time when we are being asked for joint sacrifice, it would be unseemly -- that is not to say unjustified, mind you, because I think it would be justified" -- to insist on full raises for federal workers, Mr. Hoyer added.

So, the across-the-board raise seems dead.

But to delay the first step in the elimination of the pay gap between the public and private sectors "would undermine the system," the 5th District representative said. "It would make it harder to retain and recruit people."

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