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Obama Sets Highest Federal Pay Raise in 6 Years

As of Jan. 1, 2017, federal civilian and military employees will receive a 1.6 percent pay raise, according to a letter Obama issued to Congress Wednesday.

Obama used his executive authority to set 1.6 percent as the default raise if no figure is passed into law by Congress by year’s end.

In a separate letter, Obama declared military personnel also receive a 1.6 percent raise if no figure is enacted into law for them.

Thus far, Congress so far has made no effort to legislate a raise, with both the House and Senate remaining silent in the annual spending bill that typically specifies one, according to The Washington Post.

The raise is a combination of a 1 percent across-the-board raise for civilian employees, plus an expected 0.6 percent locality pay raise. Obama said he would determine the locality raise by Nov. 30, 2016, but it would not exceed 0.6 percent.

“I have determined that for 2017, across-the-board pay increases will be 1.0 percent,” Obama wrote in an Aug. 31 letter to congressional leaders. “Also, I will make a decision by November 30, 2016, regarding an alternative plan for locality payments under 5 U.S.C. 5304a. The alternative plan for locality payments will be limited so that the total combined cost of the 1.0 percent across-the-board base pay increase and the varying locality pay increases will be 1.6 percent of basic payroll, consistent with the assumption in my 2017 budget. These decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well-qualified federal workforce.”

Although the figure is 0.3 percent above last year’s 1.3 percent raise–and the largest since 2010–several employee unions voiced their disappointment with the minor pay increase.

“A 1.6 percent pay raise does nothing to make up for years of pay freezes and miniscule increases that have left federal employees worse off today than they were at the start of the decade,” American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) President J. David Cox said in a statement. 

Similarly, National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) President Tony Reardon, expressed concern for the federal government’s ability to recruit skilled employees at current pay rates.

“NTEU believes this is far too low given the last few years’ erosion in federal pay — from the recent three-year pay freeze to the last three years of meager raises,” he said in a statement. “We continue to highlight the impact on federal workers of low pay increases and the impact on federal agencies’ ability to recruit and retain the skilled workforce our nation needs.” 

In its budget report earlier this year, the White House predicted that federal employee pay has fallen 9 percent below private sector pay during the Obama presidency.

“This would be the largest relative pay cut over an eight-year period since the passage of [Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990] by a significant margin,” the administration said, noting “the second largest eight year drop, from 1990 to 1997, was roughly 2 percent.”

Federal employee unions and some lawmakers have vowed to fight for a larger increase next year, with Democrats in both chambers of Congress introducing a measure to give civil servants a 5.3 percent raise, reports GovExec.

Posted in General News

Tags: pay raise, federal pay, President Obama, budget deal, pay raise for federal employees


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