Work Getting In The Way Of Time Outs!

It will be another three weeks - at least until Congress breaks for its Christmas holiday - before feds get a look at the new 2008 government pay scales. Congre...

By Mike Causey

Despite my polite but stern notes to President George W. Bush and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid it will be a couple of weeks, maybe three, until the 2008 federal pay tables are official and published.

Actually, President Bush has called for a 3 percent white collar civilian federal pay raise. But we still haven’t heard the last word from Congress.

The House and Senate returned yesterday after an extended Thanksgiving Holiday break . That legislative time out followed their extensive summer break, which was preceeded by a spring break.

All these time off means that Congress has less than three weeks to work before it goes on its Christmas recess. Congress has a lot of work to do and not much time to do it. Unfinished business includes passing 11 appropriations bills to run the government. Congress has cleared, and the president has signed, only one. That’s a Defense appropriations bill. This is roughly the same situation as last year when Republicans controlled the House and Senate. Now, even with the Democrats in charge, the government continues to run on fumes (aka a continuing resolution that funds most agencies at levels set last year).

As you may have noticed, lots of House and Senate members are running for President. As a result they are spending the minimum amount of time in Washington as they campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire and other places. This has made it especially tough for Senate Democrats who (counting Connecticut independent Joseph Lieiberman) has a paper majority of 51 to 49. But with Democrats Clinton, Obama, Biden, Dodd and Republican McCain busy running for president, the Republicans often find themselves in the majority in the Senate.

One of the many important issues to be resolved—or not—is what to do about an automatic expansion of the AMT (alternate minimum tax) into 2008. The IRS doesn’t know whether it will be enforcing it or not, and doesn’t know what kinds of forms and instructions to print. The AMT was originally passed to nail about 200 of the nation’s richest families. But unless automatic expansion features in the AMT law are modified or repealed, it will hit more than 20 million not-so-filthy rich Americans. And it could foul up tax refunds to millions more.

A pay raise, worth 3.5 percent for white collar feds, is part of the Financial Services and General Government appropriations package. It is one of the 11 (out of 12) Congress has yet to finalize.

If, as in I-F, Congress does approve the higher raise the White House will probably accept it. That will mean a higher raise than those projected under the 3 percent pay raise scenario.

For the latest on where the pay raise stands, why that is and how far you are behind (according to government data) click here.

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