WASHINGTON_ Federal employee salary rates would remain frozen through 2013 under a bill the House plans to start considering Wednesday.
The bill would replace a temporary funding measure that expires March 27; without new budget authority, a partial government shutdown would go into effect. That would cause immediate furloughs of many federal employees who already are facing potential furloughs starting about the same time because of sequestration budget cuts.
The bill would fund agencies through September at post-sequestration levels,but it would add funding for certain priorities while granting some agencies more freedom to move money among budgetary accounts to soften sequestration's effect.
An across-the-board federal employee raise of 0.5 of a percent is set to take effect after the current temporary budget measure expires, but a law enacted in the meantime could prevent that increase. The House earlier voted as part of a freestanding bill to block the raise; the Senate has not taken up that plan.
The White House said in a statement that it is "deeply concerned about the impact" of the funding levels in the bill. The bill "raises concerns about the government's ability to protect consumers, avoid deep cuts in critical services that families depend on, and implement critical domestic priorities such as access to quality and affordable health care."
The statement did not specifically mention the pay-rate freeze, however, and it did not threaten a veto.
Organizations representing federal employees were more critical.
Said Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association: "While private-sector wages rose by an average of 1.4 percent in 2011 and 1.7 percent in 2012, pay for federal workers has remained frozen since 2010. Getting our fiscal house in order will require tough decisions, but there are other ways to reduce the deficit that do not punish middle-class federal families."
"Depriving them of a minimal one-half percent pay increase would only serve to worsen their economic situation and harm federal agencies' ability to attract and retain the talent necessary for the workforce of the future," National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said in a statement.
Although federal salary rates have been frozen, individual employees have remained eligible for raises on promotion, for performance, and for successfully completing waiting periods used in some pay systems.
Pay for members of Congress has been frozen through September; the pending bill would continue that freeze through the calendar year.