Monday, November 29, 2010

Troops exempt from fed pay freeze proposal

Troops exempt from fed pay freeze proposal

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Nov 29, 2010 13:57:22 EST

Uniformed military personnel are exempt from a proposed two-year freeze on government salary increases — for now.

President Obama has decided that federal civilians, including those working for the Defense Department, should not receive pay increases for two years, beginning with the cancellation of the 1.4 percent increase that was to come on Jan. 1. Congress could override Obama’s decision, but the budget-cutting mood of lawmakers makes that seem unlikely.

Meanwhile, a presidential commission looking at ways to cut federal spending will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to vote on several debt-reduction recommendations, including one that would impose a three-year freeze on all government salaries, both military and civilian.

Military personnel are exempted from Obama’s two-year plan, meaning they would get the 1.4 percent across-the-board increase in basic pay scheduled for this January and a 1.6 percent pay raise on Jan. 1, 2012.

The 1.4 percent raise this year seems safe because it is unlikely that Congress would pass any law revoking the raise before it takes effect. But the potential 2012 pay increase is less certain because spending cuts will be part of the legislative agenda next year.

The potential 1.6 percent raise for 2012 would match the average private-sector pay increase last year, and is the amount due to the military under a pay formula currently set in federal law, which lawmakers could change if they wanted to.

Obama’s announcement that he is seeking to freeze federal civilian pay for two year s — saving $2 billion next year and $60 billion over the next decade — comes on the eve of votes by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform on proposals to cut military pay and benefits, including retired pay, to raise Tricare health insurance fees for military retirees, and to cut many defense programs to save money.

The commission has 18 members, and its charter requires 14 commissioners to vote in favor of a specific cut for it to become part of the final report.

One reason the administration has decided to cancel federal civilian pay increases for two years is that there were no cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security, military and federal civilian retired pay and veterans’ disability and survivor benefits in 2009 and 2010 because of the sagging U.S. economy.

If retirees and pensioners are not getting an increase, it is difficult to explain why federal workers are getting a raise, White House officials said.

Troops exempt from fed pay freeze proposal

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