The pending budget proposal from the White House could signal any interest in pursuing federal employee policy reforms this year. So far that has not been among the priorities, but the budget could be the best opportunity for long-standing Republican proposals to limit disciplinary appeal rights, limit use of on the job time for employees to spend on union duties, and restructure the pay system to put more emphasis on performance and less on longevity.
The top overseer of the federal workforce in the House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has cited a recent CBO report finding wide disparities by educational level in how federal and non-federal salaries compare as further evidence that an overhaul of the pay system is needed.
The budget plan also is the vehicle for proposals affecting pay and benefits. OMB already has confirmed earlier indications that the budget will seek a 1.9 percent federal employee raise for January 2018. In recent years Congress has followed a strategy of allowing the White House’s recommended raise to take effect by default, by not addressing the issue.
One aspect of the raise to watch will be whether a higher figure is proposed for the military. Last year Congress boosted the amount for uniformed personnel from the proposed 1.6 percent to 2.1 percent and in a last-minute action the Obama administration followed suit for federal employees by increasing the default raise from 1.6 to 2.1 percent in the name of pay parity between the two. Congress didn’t step in to block that boost, largely because agencies had to absorb the added cost out of existing budgets and no new funding was required.
There have been no indications so far of proposals to target benefits such as health insurance and retirement, although many such ideas already are circulating on Capitol Hill.