Several Democrats in both the House and Senate have proposed a 3.2 percent average raise for federal employees in January 2018, what would be the largest raise since 2009. They argue, as they have regarding past proposals, that the three years of frozen pay rates in 2011-2013 followed by raises in only the 1-2 percent range have caused federal salaries to fall behind pay for comparable private sector jobs, to the detriment of both employees and the government’s ability to recruit and retain valued employees. For the four years since the freeze ended, Congress followed a policy of allowing Obama administration raise proposals to take effect by default, thus avoiding debating the issue–while also ignoring proposals from many of those same Democrats for raises higher than Obama favored. Those default raises were based, if only loosely, on a marker set by federal pay law, an indicator that for 2018 points to a raise of 1.9 percent. That number is supposed to be used as the across-the-board component, with locality pay on top sufficient to close indicated pay gaps by locality; however, that system has never worked as designed and in many years the base number alone has been used. The Trump administration has not stated a position on a 2018 raise, but there’s a general expectation that it will back only a minimal increase, if any. Administration officials have taken a general position against across the board increases while targeting raises to the best performers and highest-demand occupations instead. A formal budget proposal from the new administration for the upcoming fiscal year could still be a month or more off–during non-transition years, the White House budget proposal typically is released during the first week of February.
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