FEDweek

Trump Budget Coming Feb 12, Current Year Funding Still Unsettled

The Trump administration has said it expects to release on February 12 its budget proposals for fiscal year 2019, a plan that likely will go into greater detail regarding its plans for federal agencies and the federal workforce than the proposal issued last year.

The proposal will start the budget cycle for the fiscal year starting October 1 even as Congress has not resolved spending and policy issues for the current fiscal year.

Another deadline, February 8, is pending to enact continued funding to avoid another partial government shutdown.

Pay raise not likely, but action on pay is

One difference from the administration’s proposal from last year that has already been signaled is that the upcoming budget likely will not propose a federal employee pay raise for next January. Last year’s proposal for an average 1.9 percent raise took effect by default early this month when Congress remained silent on the issue through all of last year.

Also already signaled is a desire to link federal pay rates more closely to market rates for similar private sector jobs and to link raises – or the denial of them – more closely to performance. Paying market rates could be good news for employees in certain high-demand occupations such as cybersecurity where there is broad consensus that federal salaries are behind, although the opposite for certain other jobs.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, Trump called for wider authority for agencies “to reward good workers,” although he did not detail what that might involve.

Changing basic compensation policies would require a major legislative effort, though, and federal employee unions – and their allies in Congress – traditionally have strongly opposed pay for performance, arguing that it opens the door for favoritism and discrimination that the current system helps protect against.

Watch for proposed changes to benefits

Also generally expected is a repeat of benefits-related proposals from last year’s White House budget, including requiring most employees to contribute more toward their retirement benefits; limiting the value of COLAs for both current and future retirees; and lowering the value of benefits for those retiring after some future date by changing the calculation from a high-3 average salary base to a high-5 base and eliminating the “special retirement supplement” for FERS employees who retire before age 62.

Other options that have been in circulation – some of them proposed numerous times over the years without being enacted – include slowing the rate of advancement for within-grade raises; eliminating the civil service annuity benefit for those hired after a future date, with possibly an enhanced agency contribution into the TSP instead; and shifting more of the cost of FEHB premiums onto enrollees.

Possible buyout increase

On the other side, the administration could repeat its proposal – which made some headway last year in Congress – to increase the standard buyout amount government-wide from $25,000 to the $40,000 now allowed only at DoD.

Paid parental leave?

In his speech, Trump also stated continued support for paid parental leave. Congress last year did not take up his proposal for six weeks of paid leave that would have applied to federal employees among other workers.