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Obama Has Until Aug. 31 to Offer Alternate Pay Raise Plan

The president is expected to formally propose a 1.3 percent pay hike for feds in 2016.

Another federal pay raise deadline is looming.

The president has until Aug. 31 to formally announce his 2016 pay raise proposal for federal employees. He is expected to propose a 1.3 percent across-the-board pay hike for civilian federal employees – the recommendation he outlined in his fiscal 2016 budget and the amount he has supported so far throughout the year.

If the president doesn’t inform Congress of his alternative pay plan for feds by Aug. 31, then the increase mandated by the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act kicks in. Under FEPCA, the raise would be determined by the change in the Employment Cost Index minus 0.5 percent. For 2016, that is around 1.8 percent.

Presidents, however, largely have ignored the FEPCA formula in their federal pay raise proposals, preferring to offer their own figure, which they are allowed to do under law. Congress created FEPCA, which provides an annual across-the-board salary boost and a locality pay adjustment for General Schedule employees, to close the public and private sector pay gap.

Locality pay rates for civilian feds have been frozen since 2010. That is not expected to completely change for 2016, but many federal employees could see a boost because of the Obama administration’s decision to create 13 new locality pay areas, effective next year. The Office of Personnel Management, which announced the proposal in June, said it was following the guidance of the Federal Salary Council and the President’s Pay Agent in issuing the rule. Obama has received criticism from federal employee advocates for giving historically low across-the-board raises to base pay in recent years -- following three years of no raises at all -- and the new locality pay areas and definitions provide the administration with a different avenue for increasing feds’ compensation.

Of course, Congress has the final say on any pay raise. Lawmakers could upend the president’s 1.3 percent recommendation and the FEPCA formula this fall by coming up with their own pay raise proposals for federal civilian employees, but it’s not likely at this point.

The House to date has passed six of 12 fiscal 2016 spending bills; none of them contain any language related to an across-the-board cost-of-living pay boost for civilian feds next year. Lawmakers did the same thing last year, and federal workers ended up with the 1 percent pay increase that Obama recommended for 2015. The Senate has not yet passed any fiscal 2016 spending bills. The current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Lawmakers have introduced legislation that would give federal employees a 3.8 percent across-the-board pay hike in 2016, but those bills are still in committee and not likely to gain any traction when Congress returns to a busy fall after summer recess.

Last summer, Obama released his official pay proposal for federal workers on Aug. 29.

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

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