Obama Seeks 1 Percent Pay Raise for Feds

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Federal employees and military service members would receive a 1 percent pay raise next year under President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget.

The president, as expected, recommended modest, across-the-board salary increases for federal civilians in 2014. If Congress agrees, a raise would lift the current civilian pay freeze, now in its third year. Service members, who received a 1.7 percent bump this year, would receive a smaller raise in 2014 under Obama’s proposal.

The proposed budget would extend the pay freeze for the administration’s senior political appointees in 2014.

Congress nixed Obama’s recommended 0.5 percent pay increase for feds this year, when it passed the continuing resolution last month to keep the government open through Sept. 30. The law overturned Obama’s executive order directing the raise to take effect in late March.

The president’s support for a modest pay increase is unlikely to please many federal workers, who also are facing proposals to increase the amount they contribute to their government pensions as well as furloughs because of sequestration. Federal employee and retiree advocates have voiced their lack of enthusiasm for what they view as Obama’s tepid defense of federal pay and benefits.

“While the president’s proposal for a 1 percent pay increase for federal workers in 2014 is better than a pay freeze, I don’t feel like jumping and shouting for joy,” said Carl Goldman, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees' Council 26, in February, when news of the proposed pay boost leaked.

The positive effects of a pay increase, however small, could be negated if federal employees have to start paying more toward their government pensions. Obama’s budget blueprint calls on current feds to contribute 1.2 percent more of their pay to their defined benefit retirement plans over three years, starting in 2014. Many lawmakers would like to see federal employees pay more toward their pensions, and it’s a rare area of agreement between the White House and congressional Republicans when it comes to federal pay and benefits.

“Pay freezes, furloughs, sequestration, understaffing and the stress of a looming government shutdown are exacting a heavy toll from the nation’s 4.6 million active and retired federal employees,” said Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, on Wednesday. “Committed and talented people are needed in federal jobs. However, budgets like the one released today by the White House could make federal jobs dangerously noncompetitive.”

The current pay freeze applies to the annual across-the-board pay raise that federal workers last received in 2010. Employees are still eligible for step increases and other financial incentives; however, the Office of Management and Budget has directed agencies to refrain from handing out bonuses and other awards while sequestration is in effect.

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