Lawmaker Pushes for 5.3 Percent Pay Raise

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., says federal employees are underpaid. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., says federal employees are underpaid. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

President Obama proposed in his fiscal 2017 budget to give federal employees their largest pay raise since 2010, but some lawmakers have said it is still not nearly enough.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., will soon introduce a bill to give federal employees an across-the-board salary bump of 5.3 percent. The Federal Adjustment of Incomes Rate (FAIR) Act would more than triple the proposed 1.6 percent raise issued by the White House.

Connolly in 2015 sponsored another version of the FAIR Act, which would have given federal workers a 3.8 percent raise in 2016. He introduced that bill in response to Obama’s proposed 1.3 percent increase, which was ultimately implemented.

“While the President's proposal marks a slight improvement over this year, it doesn’t come close to restoring what federal employees have lost over the past six years, including enduring pay freezes and a shutdown, or to reflecting what they are owed based on their quality of service," Connolly said of his new measure. "The FAIR Act demonstrates to our federal workforce that we value their service.”

The American Federation of Government Employees has led the charge for a 5.3 percent pay increase in 2017, making the number a centerpiece of its annual legislative conference this week. AFGE National President J. David Cox vowed to “fight like hell” for a more significant pay bump, even while acknowledging a 5.3 percent increase might not be realistic.

“It’s time to raise wages for all working families in this country, and the federal government should serve as the model for all other employers to follow,” Cox said of Connolly’s new bill. “We are not asking for any special treatment, just a catch up contribution to start making up for the $182 billion that federal employees personally sacrificed to help get our nation through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

Federal employees' pay raises have been historically low under Obama, something the president acknowledged in his budget blueprint. The White House repeatedly made note of the sacrifice feds have made in recent years, pointing to statistics such as federal pay declining by 9 percent relative to the private sector over the last eight years and that the average federal worker will have sacrificed $100,000 in compensation over the next decade. 

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