Federal employees could see pay raise


WASHINGTON -- Responding to pressure from Capitol Hill, President Clinton is likely to soon recommend a 2 percent pay increase for federal workers in Maryland and across the nation next year, modifying the administration's earlier request for a smaller raise.

In addition to that salary boost, most of Maryland's federal employees are likely to receive an additional 1.1 percent salary -- increase from "locality pay," the federal government's system for bridging the earnings gap between private- and public-sector workers in different parts of the country.

The total raise for most of Maryland's roughly 300,000 federal workers is expected to be about 3.1 percent. If the raises go through as expected, the increase would begin in January.

This year, most federal employees in Maryland received a pay raise of 4.2 percent.

White House officials said that Mr. Clinton would make no final decision on the issue until next week but that they expect him to go along with a recommendation by the Office of Management and Budget for the 2 percent raise.

When the president first proposed his budget for fiscal year 1995 early this year, he recommended a total salary increase of just 1.6 percent. But pressure from many legislators, including Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, has prompted the White House to go along with the basic 2 percent raise, plus the additional locality pay.

"Congressman Hoyer has been having discussions with the White House and the Office of Management and Budget regarding the issue of pay to federal workers since January," an aide to Mr. Hoyer said. "Obviously, we have to wait until the president acts, but we are hopeful."

Mr. Hoyer, a member of the House Democratic leadership from Southern Maryland, said in an interview yesterday that he is pleased with the president's plan, especially in light of pressure to reduce the federal budget deficit.

"We have a tight financial picture confronting us, and we have adopted some of the tightest budgets in our history," Mr. Hoyer said. "I believe this is the best we can do this year."

The raise is expected to cost the Treasury more than $2 billion. But White House officials said no job cuts would be needed to pay for it, despite pressure to cut federal spending.

Originally, the details of the raise were to have been resolved by lawmakers working on the final version of the spending bill that covers pay for federal workers. But that legislation was delayed by Congress' work this month on the crime bill, which received final approval from Congress late Thursday.

With both houses of Congress now in recess and any action on the spending bill pushed into next month, the president is required by law to set the size of the pay increase for federal workers by Aug. 31. Congress retains the right to override his recommendation, but they favor the 2 percent raise.

Nevertheless, Mr. Hoyer said that next year's pay increase still falls short of the rising cost of living.

"It won't keep them even with inflation," he said. "It clearly will not keep them even with the private sector and the locality pay will not catch them up with where they need to be."

Mr. Hoyer, whose district includes nearly 60,000 federal employees, said that, with the continuing shrinkage of the federal work force, "we place a greater pressure on those who remain. We need to retain them and continue to recruit the best people available, and in order to do that, we need to be competitive with the private sector."

Officials at the American Federation of Government Employees, a union representing many federal government workers, said they, too, expect the raise to go through.

"We're very hopeful," said Diane Witiak, assistant director of communications for the union.

Ms. Witiak said that although the union would have also preferred a bigger increase, "we can live with 2 percent."

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