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A Senate Appropriations Bill Endorses Biden’s 4.6% Pay Raise Plan

Like its counterpart in the House, the spending bill that serves as the vehicle for federal employee compensation issues is silent on the subject of a 2023 pay increase, effectively endorsing the president’s plan.

The odds that Congress would increase the average 4.6% pay raise planned for federal employees in 2023 got a little longer Thursday, after Senate appropriators revealed that they would effectively endorse President Biden’s pay increase proposal.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday revealed all of their initial versions of fiscal 2023 spending bills, including the package governing financial services and general government, which is the vehicle by which Congress weighs in on federal employee compensation. That bill makes no mention of changes to career federal employees’ pay, effectively endorsing the pay raise plan offered by Biden in his fiscal 2023 budget proposal.

In March, Biden announced that he would increase the pay of federal civilian employees by an average of 4.6% in 2023. He did not specify how that would be broken up between across-the-board increases to basic pay and an average increase in locality pay, although traditionally 0.5% has been set aside for average locality pay increases.

Although some lawmakers and federal employee groups had urged Congress to provide a 5.1% raise, comprised of the same 4.1% across-the-board raise, in addition to a 1.0% average increase in locality pay, that thus far has not happened. The House last week passed its first minibus spending package, which also effectively endorsed Biden’s plan, and the Senate is less likely to amend its bill to increase feds’ pay, given that Republicans have more input on the bill due to the filibuster.

One difference between the House and Senate spending bills is that the Senate’s legislation would do away with a long-running pay freeze for the vice president and other senior agency leaders serving under political appointments. Instead, all of those officials would be entitled to a 4.6% pay raise in 2023.

If enacted, that also could be good news for career employees at the top of the General Schedule pay scale, who have suffered from increasing pay compression in recent years due to the fact that their pay cannot exceed that of high-level political appointees.

The issue is particularly acute in high cost-of-living cities like San Francisco and New York. For instance, in the San Francisco Bay area, GS-15 steps 4 through 10 as well as GS-14 step 10 all have hit the pay cap.