Fedweek

With working time dwindling for the year, there now seems to be virtually no chance for action this year on budget proposals the White House made early in the year affecting federal pay and benefits.

Along with seeking a freeze on salary rates, the White House proposed to create a $1 billion fund to reward top performers and pay incentives for high-demand positions where federal salaries are deemed not competitive, and to add a year to within-grade raise waiting periods. The administration never reduced those ideas to legislative language, however, and Congress has not actively considered them.

The same is true of other proposals, including to vary the government contributions toward FEHB premiums according to quality ratings of the plans; to merge annual leave and sick leave into one category called paid time off; to create a short-term disability insurance program; and to make six weeks of parental leave paid time.

Congress further did not actively consider several proposals that the administration did formally propose as legislation: to require most FERS employees to pay about six percentage points more of salary toward their retirement benefits, phased in over that many years; to eliminate the FERS “special retirement supplement”; to cut a half-percentage point off the indicated COLAs for CSRS retirees and eliminate the COLA on the civil service portion of a FERS benefit; and to base future annuities under both systems on the average of the five highest-paid years rather than the current three.

Congress meanwhile did consider, but rejected, the administration’s proposal to raise the buyout maximum government-wide to the $40,000 applying only at DoD.

Many of those proposals—or slight variants—have been raised previously and they tend to reappear in budget plans year after year. The White House has already signaled that its fiscal 2020 budget proposal, due in early February, will seek an overall 5 percent reduction in current agency spending, increasing the chances that it will include those same proposals.