Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and NTEU members rally Feb. 27 for improved pay and benefits at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Mike Morones / Staff)
While federal unions push for a bigger pay raise than the 1 percent President Obama will propose in his 2015 budget, lawmakers say that any raise faces a fight.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the House minority whip, said a larger pay raise faces stiff opposition from Republicans and even 1 percent will be a challenge.
“I think they think zero is better, and a matter of fact some would reverse,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer said a bigger pay raise will help with the recruitment and retention of federal employees and that the Federal Salary Council has repeatedly warned of a pay gap between federal workers and the private sector.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said any kind of pay raise for federal workers is tough in the current political environment.
“I think you know as well as I do it’s heavy sledding on getting any kind of serious pay increase for our federal workers in this environment,” Sarbanes said.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said that while unions have asked for raises ranging up to 4 percent to offset years of pay freezes and furloughs, it would not pass Congress.
“I don’t think we have any chance on the other side of the aisle getting higher than one percent,” Connolly said.
But by pushing for more than 1 percent federal employees can help move the dialogue on future pay raises in a better direction for federal workers, Connolly added.
“The fact that the president at least laid down the marker they are entitled to an increase as opposed to another freeze or more stagnation is some progress,” he said.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said any kind of larger pay raise would be a real challenge but that it is important to make a case for federal workers.
“We have a hard time moving away from the freeze in Congress,” he said.
He added even a 1 percent pay raise will face a challenge, but that its inclusion in a larger budget will make it harder to take out.
“The burden is on those who want to take it out,” Cardin said.