Lawmakers propose 3.4% raise for troops
WASHINGTON — As Democrats and Republicans sparred this week over how much money should go into next year’s federal budget, lawmakers on both sides of the House Armed Services Committee have already decided not enough is slated to go into troops’ paychecks.
In a letter to the House Budget Committee, leaders of the Armed Services panel outlined plans to introduce a 3.4 percent pay raise for fiscal 2010, above the 2.9 percent hike proposed by President Barack Obama last month. The 2.9 figure is based on the projected growth of inflation and civilian wages next year.
"Now more than ever, as we ask those who wear the uniform of this country to defend the freedoms that all Americans enjoy, we must continue to eliminate the gap between the military and private sector pay raise levels," the letter said.
If approved, the 2.9 percent pay raise would mean about $64 more a month for an E-4 with six years in the service, and nearly $82 for an E-5 with more than 10 years.
The 3.4 percent raise would be another $11 or $14, respectively, above the president’s target.
The extra 0.5 percent increase also would add another $340 million to the $533.7 billion requested for next year’s defense budget. That figure doesn’t include another $130 billion for fiscal 2010 to fund operations overseas.
On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee approved a $3.5 trillion budget resolution largely mirroring Obama’s budget outline. The measure does not provide specifics of program allotments and cuts, but the House and Senate are expected to pass their resolutions next week as a baseline for budget discussions throughout the year.
Wednesday’s vote came along party lines, with Republicans calling the long-term price tag of the president’s priorities too high for a country already in debt.
While also pushing for fiscal responsibility, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee warned against restrictions on defense spending, especially in the area of troops’ pay and benefits.
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., ranking member of the panel’s personnel subcommittee, said he thought the higher pay raise figure should have been included in the president’s original budget plans.
"If we want to address the rising tide of debt and deficit, we can start by putting an end to the billions of dollars in other spending that has been unwise, has not contributed to the safety and well-being of American families or helped our economy recover," he said.
In January, troops received a 3.9 percent pay raise, 0.5 above what then-President George W. Bush had asked for in his initial fiscal 2009 budget.