House, Senate bills push for 3.8 percent federal pay raise

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would give federal employees a 3.8 percent pay raise in 2016. The Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act has about two dozen co-sponsors, including Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.),Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Donald Beyer (D-Va.).

Connolly’s bill is a companion bill to one recently introduced in the Senate by Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.)

“The FAIR Act is a first step in reassuring our commitment to public service, while addressing the alarming rate of attrition among federal employees. According to an analysis of OPM [Office of Personnel Management] data by the Partnership for Public Service, attrition in fiscal 2013 has increased 34 percent since fiscal 2009, a loss of 585,000 full-time employees in five years, or more than a quarter of the federal workforce,” Connolly said in a release.

The 114th Congress is not expected to approve the bills, but Connolly said the bill is a statement on the co-sponsors’ commitment to the federal service.

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“They have endured a three-year wage freeze, four years without locality pay, higher retirement contributions for certain employees, wage-reducing work furloughs, cuts from sequestration and a government shutdown.” Connolly said. “Enough is enough. It is time for Congress to provide the dedicated men and women of our federal workforce with fair compensation. It is a statement by Congress to federal workers that we do value who you are and what you do. These cuts have had an undeniable impact on morale and morale impacts productivity. We are a far cry from the nobility of public service that President [John] Kennedy espoused.”

He said the legislation also sends a message to President Barack Obama as the President prepares next year’s budget proposal for Congress.

Connolly has been a long-time supporter of larger pay increases for the federal workforce. Last March, he sponsored a similar bill that would boost federal pay by 3.3 percent in 2015. The bill didn’t pass and federal employees, instead, got a 1 percent raise. It was the second 1 percent raise in a row, after three years of pay freezes.

Unions and other federal employee groups voiced their support for the bills.

Richard Thissen, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), said a 3.8 percent raise would help close the pay gap between the federal government and the private sector.

“Without competitive pay, we will fail to recruit and retain the best and brightest into public service,” Thissen said in a statement. “We rely on these men and women to take criminals off our streets and keep them behind bars, assist our military at home and abroad, help prepare us for and recover from severe weather, and much more. Providing our public servants adequate compensation is about more than just fairness, it is about maintaining an efficient and effective federal government.”

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) and the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) also came out in support of the bill.

“Federal employees have seen their standard of living deteriorate thanks to a three-year pay freeze, unpaid furloughs and higher retirement contributions for newer workers,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement. “A 3.8 percent pay raise would help federal employees recover some of that lost income, and encourage high caliber workers to work for the government and provide the high quality work that taxpayers expect.”

The bill was also endorsed by the Federal-Postal Coalition, made up of 31 organizations that collectively represent 5 million federal and postal workers, and retirees.

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