Even as budget disagreements from 2017 continue to linger into the new year, conversation is already turning to next year’s budget, with President Trump’s 2019 budget proposal expected sometime next month. In light of that expected milestone, some lawmakers are hoping to get a head-start on negotiations, calling for a 3 percent pay raise for federal employees in 2019.
The Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), calls for a 2 percent base pay raise for federal employees in 2019, in addition to locality pay adjustments.
Both bill sponsors, as well as organizations supportive of the legislation, claimed the legislation was a step toward restoring “lost wage increases” for federal employees.
However, the bill may end up being more than a discussion piece, with Federal News Radio pointing out that, “Congress…has never passed any version of the FAIR Act, and actual federal pay raises have fallen short of the legislation’s expectations every year.”
Federal pay raises are theoretically based on the previous year’s Employment Cost Index (ECI), with raises ostensibly no less than half a percentage point below the ECI from the prior year. But that has rarely been the case. For example, from 2011-2013, federal employees received no base pay raise, despite respective ECIs of 1.5 percent, 1.9 percent, and 2 percent during those years. Similarly, the ECIs for the past two years were 2 percent and 2.3 percent, with federal employees receiving base pay increases of 1 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.
This point is especially notable in light of the fact that the Trump White House has openly considered a 2019 pay freeze for federal employees, making the already uphill battle even more difficult.