Trump Authorizes 1.9% Pay Raise for Feds, Says Greater Increase 'Not Warranted'

The plan mirrors the administration's fiscal 2018 budget proposal.

President Trump issued an alternative pay plan for civilian federal employees Thursday, officially giving workers a 1.9 percent raise in 2018.

The total pay raise is equal to the pay increase proposed in the White House’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal last spring. The figure includes a 1.4 percent base increase, and an average 0.5 percent hike in locality pay.

Trump had until midnight Thursday to formally announce a 2018 pay raise proposal for federal workers. If the president does not inform Congress of an alternative pay plan, a formula-based increase automatically kicks in, in accordance with the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act. Under FEPCA, the base raise is determined by the change in the Employment Cost Index minus 0.5 percent, which for 2018 would have been about 1.9 percent.

According to the White House, the locality pay increase as mandated by FEPCA would have averaged 26.16 percent and would cost the government $26 billion. Although since the enactment of FEPCA, presidents have routinely overridden the law’s automatic pay increases, citing a “national emergency or serious economic conditions,” Trump’s letter to Congress went beyond the boiler-plate language used by President Obama during his tenure.

“A pay increase of this magnitude is not warranted, 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,” Trump wrote.

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Trump’s proposed pay increase is simply not enough. He said NTEU supports legislation in Congress that would give employees a 3.2 percent raise in 2018.

“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,” he said. “Add to that, current proposals attacking the federal retirement system would result in a pay cut for federal workers.”

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.”

Ultimately, Congress has the final say on how much federal employees will earn in 2018. Lawmakers have introduced their own alternate pay raise plans, and they must determine whether to implement a number of proposed cuts to federal employee retirement programs—most notably one that would require employees to contribute 6 percentage points more to their retirement over a six-year period. And the House Budget Committee tasked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with reducing the deficit by a minimum of $32 billion over the next 10 years in whatever way it sees fit.

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