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WASHINGTON — Sen. John Kerry and a team of Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a bigger pay raise for military personnel in 2007, saying the proposed 2.2 increase simply isn’t enough.

“I will push for a salary that meets the needs of our troops,” Kerry said in a statement sent to Stripes on Friday. “When gas prices and everything else are so high, we can’t just pull a number out of thin air. We have to be sure their salary is enough to put food on the table and do right by their families.”

The 10-senator team earlier this month sent a letter to the Senate Budget Committee calling the Defense Department’s proposal “paltry” and saying “Congress must do better” for the troops.

When the fiscal 2007 federal budget was unveiled earlier this month, Defense officials said the military has seen a 29 percent increase in pay since fiscal 2001, and noted the 2.2 percent raise was in line with private sector pay forecasts for next year.

But Kerry’s staff said those Employment Cost Index projections lag more than a year behind actual household expenses, and the Democrats worry that won’t reflect the cost-of-living increases military families will see.

The group has not set a specific figure for a larger pay increase — they noted in the committee letter that in recent years Congress has approved rates at least 0.5 percent above the ECI — but said they will study the issue to determine what would be a better wage.

In addition, Kerry said proposing “the lowest pay raise for our troops in 12 years” is insulting to servicemembers.

“I couldn’t believe the president proposed such a minuscule pay raise for our troops in his budget,” he said. “This proposal doesn’t even come close to reflecting everything our troops and military families are doing for our country.”

The budget proposal also calls for $263 million in expanded pay increases for certain warrant officers and troops with high-demand skills, and features an increase of 5.9 percent in servicemembers’ basic allowance for housing.

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