FEDweek.com | Federal pay raise

The early version of a key appropriations bill is silent regarding a federal pay raise in January, the first step toward repeating a process that in recent years has resulted in a raise being paid by default annually–in this case it would be the 1.9 percent that President Trump recommended in his budget proposal in May.

Under the 1990 federal pay law, if Congress does not specify a figure by year’s end, the President’s recommended raise takes effect automatically. Congress has let that happen for the last four years. As before, federal employee organizations and some members of Congress are pushing for a higher figure for 2018, this time 3.2 percent, although they have had no success with such efforts.

Military personnel are in line for a 2.4 percent raise under other budget bills now progressing, and often there is pressure to boost the federal employee raise to match the military raise in the name of “pay parity.” President Obama did that last year, increasing what had been shaping up as a 1.6 percent 2017 raise to 2.1 percent after Congress set that higher figure for the military in a late-year budget bill.

The Trump administration budget proposal did not address splitting the raise into across the board and locality components; such a split would result in raises ranging from slightly below to slightly above 1.9 percent, varying by locality. That issue typically is first addressed in a White House statement due by the end of August.

The general government appropriations bill passed by a House subcommittee last week meanwhile would continue long-standing policies capping the raise for wage grade employees–who are under a separate locality-based system–at whatever amount is paid to GS employees in their area.

The measure also is silent regarding the process of comparing federal employee jobs to contractor bids under OMB Circular A-76. That bill has been the vehicle for annual bans on that process since late in the Bush administration, but the White House asked to allow agencies to use it at their discretion. By not including the prohibition, the bill in effect would restore authority to conduct those studies, which over the years resulted in many thousands of federal jobs being contracted out.

The subcommittee’s positions on those issues represent just the first developments in a long process ahead.

The measure meanwhile continues several provisions that have been written into similar bills for years, including a prohibition on “lifestyle”-oriented training that is not related to performance of official duties; a general requirement that FEHB carriers cover prescription contraceptives but that they not cover abortion; and a ban on the IRS paying employee awards unless conduct and personal compliance with tax laws are considered.