President Trump announced Thursday most civilian employees of the federal government will not receive pay increases schedule for January 2019.
Citing the fiscal imbalance and the burden on the annual budget, Trump’s decision eliminates a 2.1 percent pay increase. The gesture includes cancelling locality raises, which are determined by an employee’s location.
A move which affects over 1.8 million workers, the locality pay increases alone would have cost $25 billion. Although Mr. Trump’s action affects members of federal law enforcement, it will not impact the armed forces.
In a letter to congressional leaders dated Thursday, Trump wrote:
“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases. Accordingly, I have determined that it is appropriate to exercise my authority to set alternative across-the-board and locality pay adjustments for 2019.”
Condemnation was swift from congressional Democrats, including Senator Mark Warner, who issued a statement which read:
“Congress can and must stand up to the President and reject this assault on our federal workers by passing the 1.9 percent pay raise that the Senate approved on August 1.”
Despite opposition from Democrats, and a vow to block the cancellation of pay increases, some economists praised Trump’s action.
Chris Edwards, a Cato Institute researcher and advocate of reforming government waste, recalled pay freezes under the Obama administration in 2011 and 2012. Edwards said the cancelled pay increases may turn out to be “good politics” for the GOP.
“A lot of Republicans at the time ran on a federal pay freeze, and it was an important part of their policy prescription, and I do think it helped them be so successful in that election, Edwards commented.
Despite acting under executive authority, Trump’s move could be thwarted by Congress, which can include pay increases in federal legislation. The Senate is currently weighing a bill increasing federal wages 1.9 percent.
Last year, the White House and Congress reached a consensus on a 1.4 percent wage increase for civilian employees and 2.6 percent increase for the military.
[Politico] [Wall Street Journal] [Photo courtesy AL DRAGO/BLOOMBERG via Stars and Stripes]