Congressional Pay and Your 2006 Raise

Action by Congress to forego their pay raise in 2006 should not have an impact on the raise for federal employees according to the vast majority of survey respondents.

The survey last week generated a strong response. A number of readers had suggestions on ways to cut spending and many thought other groups should take a cut in government largesse but that a raise for federal employees should not be impacted by Congress’ action on its own pay raise.

On the question of whether readers were in favor of Congress voting to not take a pay raise this year as a show of support for cutting government exenses, 68% of readers supported the action. 24% were not in support of the move and 8% were undecided.

But, on the question of whether readers thought the action by Congress in not taking a pay raise should impact their own raise, there was a much stronger response. 89% of readers thought a pay raise in 2006 should not be affected by a Congressional decision not to raise their own pay. 2% responded that federal employees should not get a pay raise next year and 7% thought federal should still get a pay raise but that it should be lower than the 3.1% approved by a House subcommittee earlier this year. 1% of readers responding were undecided and another 1% checked "other" in response to the questions.

There was considerable consistency in the comments submitted by readers. This comment by an administrative assistant from the VA in Battle Creek, Michigan was typical of the response: "Those of us that make less than $50,000 a year should not have to give up a raise. Congress makes far more than a normal Federal Employee."

A number of readers also described Congressional representatives as being wealthy, getting better benefits, and in general having a much better lifestyle than most federal employees. This comment from an aviation safety inspector in Miami displayed the tenor of many comments: "We are stretched thin as it is. We as govt employees do NOT receive all the benefits and vacations and life time security and benefits as go our Congressmen and Senators. They should forgo any raise, but those in the trenches deserve theirs."

An HR specialist from the Social Security Administration in Baltimore had this to say: "Their 1.9% has virtually no impact on the deficit. They all are extremely rich and well connected and the money means little, It means a whole lot to us federal workers."

A number of readers expressed disdain for the job done by Congress in general and in some cases resentment over the salaries currently received by those in Congress. This comment is from an administrative assistant with the Navy in Great Lakes, MI: "It appears to me Congress is getting paid too much already—they can’t even get the budget issues settled on time; I bet they would if their salaries (and raises) depended on it."

A community planner from DOT in Ft. Worth, Texas wrote: "I guess I’m just selfish, but when I see all the ‘pork’ in the highway bill and the article that Stevens wants to spend $3 billion so we can continue to receive analog signals on our tv, it’s hard to sympathize with Congress’ sudden guilt attack over spending. Call me when Congress gives up its free parking, etc."

A Navy employee from Barstow, CA echoed a similar sentiment: "Members of congress are already overpaid and unaccountable for what they do or do not do. They need to be accountable like rank & file workers. NO work-No pay. ‘Maintain 2 households’ is not an excuse. I did that for 20+ years in the military and never made even close to a $168K salary."

A retiree from the National Archives and Records Administration threw in this sentiment: "[C]ongressional salaries should in no way be related to civil servants’ salaries. Members of Congress as well as their top staff members are already overpaid considerably."

Some readers attributed the move by Congress to forego a salary this year as a political stunt. This comment from an employee of HHS in Baltimore was typical of a number sent with this sentiment: "The main financial issue with Congress is not how much they make; it is the billions in pork they add to routine spending bills. Much of Congress, especially the Senate, is a millionaire’s club. Declining a small pay raise would have no tangible effect on most of them or the national treasury. This is a separate issue from any cost of living raise allocated to rank and file federal employees."

A director for the USDA in Washington, DC has specific suggestions on how to cut unnecessary spending in the federal budget: "Defense spending must be cut. Cut unnecessary spending for farm subsidies. Most of these subsidies are going to corporations and are sustaining artificially high prices for products."

Some readers had suggestions as to who should take a cut in government expense reduction while still giving federal employees a raise in 2006. For example, a benefits authorizer for the Social Security Administration in Kansas City wrote: "I don’t think that we should be paying for Katrina. Cut back on all the spending being done on new bridges in Alaska and other nonsense spending."

An engineering technician from DoD who works in Texas said: "Until someone in the government puts a cap on the record profits that the oil companies are making off the consumer, I think they should take cuts out of their own pocket. They can afford it a lot better than I can."

An employee from the Social Security Administration thought that lower graded employees should get a raise but higher graded employees should not get one: "The lower grade federal employees are really the ones who suffer – for once let the higher paid upper levels not get an increase and only the lower grades – GS-12 and below."

A contracting specialist from the Department of Interior commented: "Let’s stop letting the Big Boys get off the hook while us little folks pay the way!!!!!"

A public health analyst from the CDC in Atlanta thinks the war in Iraq is the problem: "Federal employees should not have to pick up the tab for a natural disaster, nor should their salaries supplement the war in Iraq. Just think of all the budget dollars available for use in this country if we weren’t spending those same dollars in Iraq. The ink might even be black."

But some readers thought that not getting a raise this year was an appropriate decision. This reader from Goose Creek, SC wrote: "I have said before, that if Congress will forego their annual pay raise, I would be willing to forego mine. Sure it would be nice to have an extra few dollars a month, but Hurricane Survivors must come first, not to mention our Military Heroes in Iraq!"

And a national bank examiner from Denver had this perspective: "My agency does not receive the COLA approved by Congress anyway, but an across-the-board reduction in raises would be appropriate. First, though, Congress and the President should look at eliminating the pork projects like Deer Mitigation Fencing, funding for Obscure Sporting Event Halls of Fame (like rodeo or hog calling or whatever), highways to nowhere, etc. Eliminating the pork from federal spending would pay for hurricane relief, the war effort, and social programs."

And, finally, a realty project manager from GSA in Philadelphia summed up his view this way: "I don’t really care what [C]ongress does but I do not want my raise impacted."

Thanks to the many readers who took the time to vote in our latest opinion survey and a special thanks to those who submitted comments for sharing with other readers.