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Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate Recommending Adjustments of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Salaries

January 09, 1989

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

As required by section 225 of the Federal Salary Act of 1967, Public Law 90-206 (2 U.S.C. 351 et seq.), the latest Quadrennial Commission on Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Salaries ("Commission") has submitted to me recommendations on salaries for Senators, Representatives, Federal judges, Cabinet officers, and other agency heads, and certain other officials in the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.

The statute requires that, in the budget next submitted after receipt of the report of the Commission, I set forth recommendations for adjustment of these salaries. Pursuant to section 225(i), as amended by section 135 of Public Law 99-190, these recommendations will be effective unless the Congress disapproves the recommendation by a joint resolution within 30 days following the transmittal of my budget.

The Commission's report, submitted to me on December 14, 1988, documented both the substantial erosion in the real level of Federal executive pay that has occurred since 1969 and the recruitment and retention problems that have resulted, especially for the Federal judiciary. The Commission is to be commended for its diligent and conscientious effort to address the complicated and complex problems associated with Federal pay levels.

The Commission found that Federal executives and legislators have experienced a decline of approximately 35 percent in real salaries since 1969. In contrast, the salaries of General Schedule employees have declined by only 8 percent over the same period. The Commission's recommendations go a long way towards compensating for this salary erosion, but they do not make up the full gap. For example, for an official at Executive Level II, which is also the congressional salary rate, the salary level adjusted for inflation since 1969 would be $140,340 while the Commission's recommendation is $135,000.

Every one of the Commissions that has met over the past 20 years concluded that a pay increase for key Federal officials was necessary. Each Commission found that pay for senior Government officials fell far behind that of their counterparts in the private sector. They also surmised that we cannot afford a Government composed primarily of those wealthy enough to serve.

In accepting the Commission's salary recommendations, I recognize that we are under a mandate to reduce the Federal deficit and hold the costs of government to an absolute minimum. Thus, while I have decided to propose a pay increase that accepts in full the salary recommendations made by the Commissioners in their report to me last month, this proposal will not increase the deficit; the funding for the pay increase will be fully absorbed within proposed budget levels.

This increase fulfills my promise made in January 1987 that, assuming continued progress toward eliminating the deficit and favorable economic conditions, I would recommend another step toward overcoming the erosion of real income.

While this represents a substantial increase in salaries, it is coupled with the salutary recommendation of a ban on receipt of all honoraria in all branches of government. Although my recommendation concerning honoraria has no legal effect, I urge the swiftest possible consideration of this important reform. The Commission further recommended that the Congress enact legislation to bar officials in the three branches from receiving honoraria. I endorse these recommendations of the Commission as an appropriate step toward better government. A salary increase and a prohibition on receipt of honoraria together will help ensure that the government is able to attract and keep talented senior officials and that the questions that arise from outside payments of honoraria are put to rest.

Accordingly, pursuant to subparagraphs (A), (B), (c), and (D) of section 225(f) and section 225(h) of Public Law 90-206 (81 Stat. 643 and 644), as amended:

For the Vice President of the United States $175,000

For offices and positions under the Executive Schedule in subchapter II of chapter 53 of

title 5, United States Code, as follows:

Positions at level I 155,000

Positions at level II 135,000

Positions at level III 125,000

Positions at level IV 120,000

Positions at level V 115,000

For Speaker of the House of Representatives 175,000

For the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, majority leader and minority leader of the

Senate, and majority leader and minority leader of the House of Representatives 155,000

For Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, Delegates to the

House of Representatives, and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico 135,000

For other officers and positions in the legislative branch as follows:

Comptroller General of the United States 135,000

Deputy Comptroller General of the United States, Librarian of Congress, and

Architect of the Capitol 125,000

General Counsel of the General Accounting Office, Deputy Librarian of Congress,

and Assistant Architect of the Capitol 120,000

For Justices, judges, and other personnel in the judicial branch as follows:

Chief Justice of the United States 175,000

Associate Justices of the Supreme Court 165,000


U.S. Courts of Appeals 140,000

Court of Military Appeals 140,000

U.S. District Courts 135,000

Court of International Trade 135,000

Tax Court of the United States 135,000

U.S. Claims Court 135,000



Note: Identical letters were sent to Jim Wright, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and George Bush, President of the Senate.

Ronald Reagan, Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate Recommending Adjustments of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Salaries Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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