Trump Announces Freeze on Planned Pay Raises and Locality Pay, Congress Responds

Late last week, President Donald Trump sent a letter signaling his intention to cancel previously-planned pay raises of roughly 1.9% for most federal employees, as well as scheduled locality pay adjustments proposed by the Federal Salary Council.

In a letter sent to Congressional leaders, Trump wore that his “alternative pay plan decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well-qualified federal workforce.”

The decision does not affect members of the military, who will still receive their 2.6 percent pay raise.

Nicole Ogrysko of Federal News Radio notes, under the typical formula used, “most federal employees would have received an average of a 2.1 percent raise in 2019, plus additional locality pay increases, which average 25.7 percent,” with the U.S. Senate having recently agreed to a 1.9 percent raise for 2019.

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association reminded its members “that President can only propose reductions in wages, benefits, and annuities. Unless there is a national crisis or financial emergency, Congress sets and appropriates federal pay and benefits.”

The organization, which has traditionally been supportive of the administration, also sent a strongly-worded letter to Trump, suggesting that continued attacks on federal law enforcement livelihoods would make it increasingly difficult for the organization and its members to support the president.

Other organizations were similarly frustrated by the announcement.

“In no case does zeroing out these adjustments make the federal government more attractive as an employer, particularly when attempting to attract the highest-educated candidates who, according to CBO, already make less, on average, than their counterparts in the private sector,” said Bill Valdez, President of the Senior Executives Association, said of the proposed pay freeze. “In short, this policy is a 180-degree turn away from the president’s stated goal of ‘recruiting, retaining, and rewarding high-performing Federal employees and those with critical skill sets.’”

Trump’s proposal also earned him criticism from at least one Republican lawmaker, with Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) sending a letter of policy opposition to the president on Friday.

“We simply cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees,” Comstock wrote. “With our strong, booming economy, I know we can work to find ways to support and fairly pay our federal employees, while growing the private sector economy and reducing our deficits.”

Several Congressional Democrats also sent a letter of opposition to Congressional leaders, asking that they oppose the president’s proposal for 2019. The letter was sent by Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

“It is beyond cynical that the president would cite serious economic and fiscal concerns to justify his decision to cancel a pay adjustment for middle class workers while he tweets constantly about economic gains and touts a tax bill that exploded the deficit by $1.5 trillion,” the letter argues. “Federal employees have endured these attacks while making sacrifices of their own. Over the last six years, they have contributed $200 billion to deficit reduction, undergone federal pay and hiring freezes, lost family income to sequestration-related furloughs and increased their pension contributions.”

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