Congressional officials raised the maximum basic pay rate available to House staffers to $156,848 this month, while also awarding employees a 3.71 percent cost-of-living adjustment.
The across-the-board boost mirrors the increase provided to federal employees in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
The House Administration Committee approved the increase, to be paid for with funds included in the fiscal 2005 legislative branch spending bill, earlier this month. Capitol Police employees, both civilian and sworn officers, will also receive the 3.71 percent COLA.
In conjunction with the increase, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) issued a pay order setting the maximum pay rate for Members’ personal office staff at $156,848, an increase from $153,022.
In a Jan. 18 “Dear Colleague” letter announcing the change, House Chief Administrative Officer Jay Eagen noted, however, that lawmakers will not receive additional funds in their Members Representation Allowance for increasing payments to staff.
“Please note that this Pay Order does not automatically increase your MRA and any adjustments in pay that are made for your employees are still included within your current MRA amount,” the letter states.
In addition, the maximum salary rates for House committee staff have also increased.
The top-tier pay rate (available to three staffers per committee) is now $160,600, up from $156,600; the secondary maximum salary (restricted to nine aides on most committees) will increase to $158,976 from $155,099; and the cap on the basic pay rate will be set at $156,848.
As with individual Member offices, leadership and committee offices will not receive increased budget allocations as a result of the new pay order.
Congressional Management Foundation Executive Director Rick Shapiro praised House officials’ decision to match the federal COLA, noting the long-term wage gap between the chamber’s employees and their counterparts in the executive branch.
“It’s a very positive sign, because what our reports have been documenting since 1990 is that virtually every year that we do the study there is a growing disparity,” Shapiro said.
According to the 2004 House Staff Employment Study, produced by CMF under the direction of the House Administration Committee, the average paycheck for a House employee lags 47 percent behind those of other federal employees based in the District, or $54,212 to $79,577, respectively.
“Congress is recognizing that they’re both competing for capable, talented staff in the Washington, D.C., area,” Shapiro said. “It makes sense for Congress to try and keep pace.”