WASHINGTON – Federal employees got a raise this week, good news for the more than 100,000 civil servants who live in Maryland and will be taking home an additional $2,867 a year, on average, with the increase.
The average 4.6 percent raise is 1 percentage point higher than the 3.6 percent President Bush had originally proposed in his budget, and on par with raises that have been proposed for the military this year. The raise was sent to the president for his signature Thursday.
Government workers unions called the pay hike decent, but said it is not nearly enough to make up for years of underfunding of civil service salaries.
Diane Witiak, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Government Employees, said the raise would at least let civilian workers keep parity with the military, but it is still a far cry from bringing federal employees in line with the private sector.
“It’s also not going to help with the human capital crisis the federal government is facing,” she said. “They have to pay them adequately in order to recruit the best and the brightest.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, who pushed for the pay raise, agreed that “pay for federal employees continues to lag behind the private sector and cause retention and recruiting problems.”
“Tens of thousands of hard-working federal employees live in the state of Maryland and maintaining their standard of living with fair pay adjustments each year is important to our state’s economy,” he said in a prepared statement.
But Dorothea Cotten, a personnel technician at the State Department, said she was only “semi-happy” about her increase. Along with the news of the raise, the Temple Hills resident also learned of a raise in her health insurance premium of about $12 per pay period.
“In the end, we don’t see that much in our checks,” said Cotten, noting that her health insurance, life insurance, taxes and other expenses climb along with her salary. “You’ve got to be making in the $60,000 or $70,000 range to see a difference, and that’s not us.”
The raise, which is set to take effect this year, will vary from market to market because of “locality pay,” which adjusts federal wages for the same job to reflect the wage trends in certain geographic areas. How big a raise workers ultimately take home depends upon the locality pay, which will be determined in November, according to congressional aides.
How the pay raises will be financed depends on the federal agency — some will be appropriated funds to cover the pay increase, while others will have to absorb the cost internally.