Under the Trump administration’s new budget proposal, federal employees would receive a 1 percent pay raise in January and agencies would have more money for rewarding high performers and those in high-demand occupations—but those increases would be more than offset if Congress accepts the budget’s familiar list of proposed cuts to benefits.
The budget also includes numerous other repeats of past proposals that advanced only little in Congress even when both chambers were under Republican control and that did not move at all last year in the Democratic-controlled House.
The proposed raise falls in the middle of President Trump’s prior three proposals—first for a 1.9 percent raise, then two years of proposed freezes. Although the budget does not specify it, a 1 percent boost most likely would be paid only across the board, with no variation by locality, as were two years of the same size raises during the Obama administration.
In contrast, federal unions and some leaders in federal employee issues in Congress are seeking a 3.5 percent raise, which likely would have a locality component if accepted.
In both years that Trump recommended freezes, raises ultimately were paid after budget negotiations; those along with the 1.9 percent raise paid in January 2018 did have locality components.
The administration meanwhile has recommended a 3 percent raise for military personnel; while federal employee raises often have been brought up to the amount of a military raise, the federal employee amount has never been higher in recent history.
Further, the administration again recommended stretching out the waiting period for within-grade raises in pay systems such as the GS that have them, saying that those increases are paid to 99.7 percent of employees and don’t act as a performance incentive. The budget does not specify how much time would be added to the waiting periods—which are one, two or three years until reaching the top step of a grade—but prior proposals have said it would be one more year at each step.
The document also notes that agencies on average spend the equivalent of about 1 percent of their salary budgets on performance awards and that OMB last year lifted a prior cap on such spending of 1.5 percent of salary.
The new proposal “includes funding for agencies to spend an additional one percentage point of their salary budget on awards for their high performing employees and those with critical skillsets.”
“This increase in awards spending will allow agencies to effect an awards and recognition program that drives positive behavior; provides opportunities for employees to develop, grow, and enhance their careers; and recognizes accomplishments in a timely way. The increase also ensures that agencies have sufficient funding to differentiate among levels of performance and maintain an appropriate distribution between performance awards and individual contribution awards,” it says.