Message on Pay Raise Likely Ahead

President Trump likely will issue a message by the end of this month restating his intent to provide federal employees a 1.9 percent average pay raise in January, a step taken routinely in recent years as Congress has shied away from addressing the raise issue.

As was the case up to this point in the past four years, Congress has been silent on a raise, putting no figure in the pending appropriations bills for the fiscal year that starts in October. If that silence continues to the year’s end, as it did before, the pay law calls for the administration’s recommended “alternative” raise–alternative to the much larger raise that would otherwise have to be paid–to take effect by default.

The August White House message on the raise effectively is an order unless overridden later by Congress; that could happen but there has been no indication that Congress intends to actively consider setting a raise this year. The only action has been that the House repeated standard language in the general government spending bill to continue setting raises for blue-collar employees–who are under a separate locality system–at whatever amount is paid to GS employees in their area.

The raise message also typically specifies whether the administration would split the total raise into across-the-board and locality components. For a 1.9 percent increase, the most likely outcome would be 1 percentage point for the former, with the funding for the other 0.9 percentage points divided by locality. That would yield raises ranging from several tenths of a percentage point below 1.9 to several tenths above.