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Federal Pay Raise Similar to Defeated Proposal Urged

From Times Wire Services

A private commission examining how to make government service more attractive recommended Wednesday that salaries for top Administration officials, judges and members of Congress be increased.

The 36-member National Commission on Public Service, headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker, recommended a pay raise that could end up as large as the one Congress killed last month after public opposition.

Volcker would not speculate on whether he believed Congress would endorse a pay increase, but he said that, based on talks with lawmakers: “I do find some renewal of interest in the subject.”

House Majority Whip Tony Coelho (D-Merced) was more pessimistic, saying: “Will something get done this year? I doubt it. Something needs to be done but I’m not at all optimistic.”

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The commission’s pay proposal is similar to the one made in the final weeks of the Ronald Reagan Administration by a congressionally created commission that assesses federal pay every four years. Reagan and President Bush endorsed that proposed 51% increase.

Under the Volcker commission plan, a pay increase of 25% would be effective immediately. A second pay raise would wait until a new Congress convenes in 1991. Also, members of Congress would have to give up speaking fees, or honorariums, with which many lawmakers supplement their incomes.

Currently, most members of Congress are paid $89,500, Cabinet-level officials are paid $99,500 and directors of various bureaus, deputy secretaries, assistant secretaries and other top officials are paid from $75,500 to $89,500.

The commission also recommended pay raises for rank-and-file federal employees, but the panel suggested that the increases be absorbed into existing budgets by reductions in force and the elimination of programs. It also suggested that the pay rates vary from locality to locality, based on the cost of living.

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Douglas Fraser, former president of the United Auto Workers and a member of the commission, said that organized labor generally supports the commission’s report but disagrees with the proposal that pay vary from locality to locality. “It creates in many cases gross inequalities,” Fraser said.

Among other commission recommendations:

--The number of presidential political appointees should be reduced from the current level of about 3,000 to about 2,000 and career officials should more frequently be considered for sub-Cabinet appointments.

--The President and Congress should establish a public service scholarship program open to 1,000 students who would receive tuition and costs in return for a commitment to a specified term of government service.

--The President should “set the highest standards of ethical conduct for those who hold the public trust, and act quickly and firmly to remove those who violate that trust.”

--The financial disclosure process, “while a key protection against conflicts of interest, should be streamlined to ease the burdens on potential appointees.”


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