House panel acts to cut federal pay gap


WASHINGTON -- A House committee voted yesterday to revive "locality" pay for federal workers, which the Clinton

administration wanted to postpone until 1995, and agreed to preserve federal workers' survivors' benefits despite a Clinton proposal to cut them by 10 percent.

The House Post Office and Civil Service Committee restored the locality pay, designed to close the gap between federal and private-sector pay, by slashing the federal work force by 150,000 over five years instead of 100,000, eliminating cash performance awards for federal workers for four years and limiting the amount of annual leave carried over by senior executives after this year.

Those measures should save $7.7 billion over five years, more than offsetting the $6.9 billion cost of the locality-pay proposal, according to D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. She and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, both Democrats, crafted an amendment to the committee's fiscal 1994 budget bill to save locality pay, which will affect 300,000 federal workers who live in Maryland.

Baltimore and Washington are among 32 cities being studied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the difference between private- and public-sector wages. The Federal Salary Council will use that information to set wage levels.

The wage gap in those cities has been estimated by the National Federation of Federal Employees at 20 percent to 42 percent, which would translate into raises of 2.8 percent to 7.4 percent, according to the union.

The Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan Statistical Area will 0' probably be considered one region, and workers there will likely get raises, said a congressional staff member.

Federal workers have also been concerned about the Clinton administration's plan to cut the benefits of federal retirees' survivors by 10 percent, and to drop child survivors' benefits for students ages 18 to 22.

The budget bill would leave these benefits unchanged.

The bill would also:

* Provide for a one-year pay freeze that would eliminate the regular 2.2 percent raise scheduled for January and lower the planned raises in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

* Spare federal workers a proposed 23 percent increase in their monthly Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan premiums.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is working on its own federal pay bill. Differences between the House and Senate bills must be worked out, and then a bill must be approved by both chambers.

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