Federal employees will not receive an expected raise in their paychecks next year since President Trump has decided to tighten the government’s purse strings.
The president announced his intention to cut pay raises for civilian government workers in a letter he sent to congressional leaders on Thursday, citing his authority in times of “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare” to make adjustments to the 2018 pay schedule for federal employees.
“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a sustainable fiscal course,” he wrote.
Workers were originally scheduled for a 2.1 percent bump in pay. Now, Trump will use his authority to lower that to an overall average increase of 1.9 percent.
He wrote, “I have determined that for 2018, across-the-board pay increases will be 1.4 percent and locality pay increases will average 0.5 percent, resulting in an overall average increase of 1.9 percent for civilian federal employees. I will specify locality pay percentages for each locality pay area by executive order before the first pay period in January 2018. These decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well-qualified federal workforce.”
“A pay increase of this magnitude is not warranted,” stated Trump, adding, “and Federal agency budgets could not accommodate such an increase while still maintaining support for key Federal priorities such as those that advance the safety and security of the American people.”
Pay raises for government workers outside of Washington, D.C., will average only 0.5 percent and will be specified in a coming executive order, Trump noted.
Specifically, locality pay increases worth approximately $26 billion were set to average 26.16 percent next year. Presidents often adjust locality pay lower than what the statutory formula calls for, and Trump emphasized this point clearly, adding that a locality adjustment of this magnitude isn’t “warranted.”
Trump’s Aug. 31 announcement was mostly expected, as a 1.9 percent raise for civilian workers is in line with the president’s full 2018 budget proposal. An annual across-the-board pay adjustment formula in the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act sets raises for most federal employees under the General Schedule. The president can choose to differ from this formula, and Congress can ultimately propose and pass any alternative numbers in its budget.
The White House did not respond to a question about how much the government would save from the action or whether it had discussed the matter with offices on Capitol Hill, according to a report in The Hill.
Uniformed members of the military, on the other hand, will maintain a 2.1 percent pay increase for 2018. As President Trump wrote in the letter, “I strongly support our men and women in uniform, who are the greatest fighting force in the world and the guardians of American freedom. As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare, we must work to rebuild our military’s readiness and capabilities.”
The pay raises will be effective Jan. 1, 2018.
Upon hearing the news on Thursday, one federal workers union complained that President Trump’s proposed 1.9 percent pay increase for 2018 will shortchange government workers by half of 1 percent.
According to Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, “NTEU believes this figure is too low especially in light of the fact that federal law calls for a 1.9 percent across-the-board raise and private sector wages are growing at an even faster rate. Add to that, current proposals attacking the federal retirement system would result in a pay cut for federal workers.”
Then again, NTEU also bemoaned former President Barack Obama’s proposed 1.6 percent pay increase for 2017, saying in February 2016 that the increase was “too low and does little to overcome several years of pay freezes and below-market increases.”
Former President Barack Obama issued an executive order in December mandating a 2.1 percent increase for federal workers in 2017. It was exactly the same amount as the raise military personnel were set to receive that year.
In his letter, Trump said he believes the annual raise “will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well-qualified Federal workforce.”
Thursday was the last day for the White House to announced its proposed pay raises, causing critics to point out that in previous years, the administration has rolled out its plans days in advance.
Richard Thissen, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, applauded the pay raise proposal, but said his organization would continue to push for Congress to approve a robust increase for next year.
“While federal employees will appreciate the raise, an average increase of 1.9 percent is the minimum required to prevent federal pay from declining further, and more rapidly, below market than the current 35 percent wage disparity between public- and private-sector wages,” Thissen said. “Both Congress and the president should work together to pursue a more robust pay increase to maintain the highly qualified workforce needed to run an efficient federal government.”