Fedweek

Washington DC - March 29 2021: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House.

The White House is expected to release a number of new spending and policy proposals in the time just ahead, although more waiting may lie ahead regarding the administration’s views on federal employment pay and benefits issues.

The proposals with the greatest dollar impact likely will involve spending on infrastructure such as roads and bridges which could have a substantial impact on operations of agencies involved in overseeing such spending, including the potential need for increasing staff. Such a package further could contain provisions for updating federal office buildings, including initiatives promoting “green” policies such as energy savings.

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Also expected soon are various domestic policy proposals along with a general outline of the administration’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts in October—the so-called “skinny” budget that precedes the traditional detailed set of documents in a presidential transition year.

In the prior two transition years, such preliminary budgets did not address federal benefits policies. The Obama administration in 2009 did specify a proposed raise, of 2 percent; the 2017 preliminary Trump administration budget was silent on a raise (Trump’s later full budget proposed 1.9 percent for the following year).

In both of those years the full budget was issued in mid-May. The Biden administration has not projected a date except to say in a recent memo from OMB that it will be “later this spring.”

Federal employee organizations are looking for that document to be much different than that of four years ago, which recommended a range of potential cuts to retirement benefits while seeking to have most employees pay more toward those benefits. Those proposals were repeated each following year under the Trump administration but never came close to enactment in Congress.

While the administration has not signaled a figure for a federal pay raise for 2022, leading Democrats on civil service issues are advocating for a 3.2 percent average boost including a variable locality component. During the campaign, Biden said in response to questionnaires from several employee organizations that he favors “consistent and regular pay increases necessary to ensure federal salaries remain competitive.”

Biden also said then that he opposes “cuts in health insurance premiums or other critical employee benefits” and that he favors repealing the higher retirement contributions already applying to some FERS employees depending on when they were hired and that he would “work to eliminate” several Social Security offsets applying in the CSRS retirement program.

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