President backs down from campaign promise to reduce high salaries

Federal workers

September 30, 1992|By Carol Emert and Sarah Pekkanen | Carol Emert and Sarah Pekkanen,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has withdrawn his campaign promise to cut the salaries of highly paid federal employees after Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer introduced legislation to reinstate the cuts.

Mr. Bush changed his mind "for fairness' sake," according to a senior administration official quoted last week by the Washington Post.

As lawmakers prepared last week to vote on the legislation, the White House sent a letter to Mr. Hoyer, D-5th, saying it will not impose pay cuts without Congress' approval.

The president's backtracking also appears to be at least partially the result of a miscalculation by his administration.

Earlier this month, Mr. Bush said in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club: "Taxpayers have tightened their belts. The better-paid federal workers should do the same."

The president promised to "cut the salaries of all federal employees

earning more than $75,000 by 5 percent." Some 54,000 federal workers are in that salary range.

But the salaries of most of them -- including the president, the Cabinet, federal judges and military employees -- can be changed only through an act of Congress.

Only the 8,200 members of the Senior Executive Service, a specially recruited and groomed group of upper-level administrators who earn between $90,000 and $120,000 a year, are subject to a unilateral salary cut by the chief executive.

In the Woodlawn, Md., headquarters of the Social Security Administration, 287 employees earn $75,000 and up. Sixty-five of them are members of the Senior Executive Service.

SATELLITE CENTER:

The city of Hagerstown has landed the first federal charter for a government telecommuting center, which should save some federal employees long commutes to Washington and Baltimore.

The more than 5,000 federal workers who live within a 30-mile radius of Hagerstown spend an average of 126 miles a day commuting to and from work, according to Marsha Fuller, a Hagerstown resident who led the effort to locate a satellite center there.

The center, scheduled to open in the spring of 1993, will provide desks, telephones, computers, and other office needs for employees from a number of federal agencies. Workers can keep in touch with their headquarters offices through E-mail and other electronic technology while saving time, energy and money by working closer to home.

Ms. Fuller and others are touting the facility as the wave of the future, and say that it will require different and better management techniques.

"Managers will learn to manage by results rather than by counting heads. . . . Employees will learn independence, a laudable American trait, and become more productive with their work time," says Hagerstown's charter proposal.

Telecommuting also will reduce traffic and air pollution; give people more time with their families; allow those who are unable to drive, such as the disabled, to seek federal employment; develop rural areas; prevent urban crowding and help retain employees who dislike driving to work, the proposal said.

The center will start small, with space for about 50 to 100 people, said Ms. Fuller. People who wish to work there will have to get approval from their supervisors.

Local businesses and public agencies are setting up a cooperative network to supply the satellite center with trained support staff, copying services and office supplies.

FEDERAL CLEANUP:

The House and Senate last week approved the Federal Facilities Compliance Act, which would give state governments and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the authority to fine federal laboratories and other government facilities that violate hazardous waste laws.

Some research and defense facilities have been accused of endangering employees and surrounding communities with toxic contamination, but they are protected from sanctions. The bill would strip the facilities of their immunity, subjecting them to the same EPA penalties as states, cities and private businesses.

The president is expected to sign the bill.

The bill would also allow states to enforce hazardous waste requirements against federal facilities.

Penalties collected by states for violations would be used to improve or protect the environment, or to defray enforcement costs, unless a state constitution or statute mandates otherwise.

Under the measure, either the EPA or states that house federal facilities would be required to conduct annual inspections of each site -- with the facility footing the bill -- including comprehensive ground water inspections.

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