Locality pay said to remain a priority Federal workers

June 18, 1993|By Carol Emert | Carol Emert,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- Federal worker legislation approved last week by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee does not include locality pay raises.

But the raises, based on regional cost-of-living differences, still have a good chance of going into effect next year.

Locality pay is "definitely a priority and it's something we're looking to handle down the road," says a spokesman for Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, committee chairman. "Just because we didn't deal with it [last week], that doesn't mean it's not a priority."

Mr. Glenn was a sponsor of locality pay legislation that passed in 1990, and he remains committed to seeing the program enacted, the spokesman says.

Locality pay is designed to make the pay of federal workers comparable to salaries in the private sector. But pay differences vary from city to city and region to region. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is calculating the gap for each area of the country. The agency is expected to finish its work this summer.

Locality pay raises would be phased in over nine years under a bipartisan bill adopted in 1990 and signed by President Bush.

The House Post Office and Civil Service Committee's budget bill, passed last month, calls for locality pay raises to begin in July 1994. But Senate rules prevent committees in that chamber from including nonentitlement spending in budget bills. So the Senate bill deals only with federal worker "entitlements" such as health care and survivors' benefits.

Like the House bill and the Clinton administration's budget proposal, the Senate bill would permanently remove a benefit that allows federal workers to receive part of their pension as a lump sum immediately upon retirement.

The Senate bill also would make it easier for retirees to purchase survivor benefits for a spouse married after retirement. Rather than requiring a large down payment before insuring the spouse, the committee recommended immediate coverage, which would be paid for by reducing the retiree's pension 25 percent until the debt is paid off.

The Senate committee also voted to delay cost-of-living XTC adjustments for federal pensioners from Jan. 1 to March 1 in 1994, 1995 and 1996.

The bill was referred to the Senate Budget Committee, which has not yet scheduled further action.

CASH BONUSES -- In an effort to save locality pay and other prized benefits, the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee voted last month to eliminate all cash bonuses and performance awards for federal employees.

But Jim King, director of the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the federal work force, thinks such awards are crucial for the motivation and morale of employees. At a "reinventing government" workshop earlier this month, Mr. King suggested that agencies find money for bonuses in their own budgets if Congress bans them.

Workshop participants, who included federal workers, managers, policy-makers and advocacy groups, spent two days discussing ways to improve the performance of the federal government. Their recommendations will be part of Vice President Al Gore's reinventing government report, which is scheduled for release this fall.

Advocates of bonuses also will have to battle Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who has introduced a bill to eliminate cash awards for top-level officials, those in Executive Schedule I-V. The bill also would ban bonuses to all political appointees between June 1 of a presidential election year and Jan. 20 of the following year.

"The need for this legislation was amply demonstrated by a spate of midnight bonuses awarded to such officials at the close of the Bush administration," Mr. Levin said when he introduced the bill.

During that period in 1992, 133 bonuses were handed out compared with 50 in the same period in 1991, he said.

"While this increase does not conclusively prove that the bonus system was abused, it certainly raises questions about the purpose of these bonuses -- especially given the number of top-level political officials who received them -- and creates an appearance of political favoritism," Mr. Levin said.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is co-sponsoring the legislation.

STALKER BILL -- People who follow, threaten, or otherwise harass federal employees could face a fine, a prison sentence or both under a bill introduced by Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins, D-Mich.

The Federal Employee Anti-stalking Act would apply to anyone who behaves in a way that "is likely to place [a federal employee] in reasonable fear of sexual battery, bodily injury, or death" while on the job.

The legislation was motivated in part by the recent shootings of several U.S. Postal Service employees.

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