News of a pending, possible 1.9 percent federal pay raise for January 2018 triggered two general responses:
1) Surprise and what passes for delight in Washington that the Trump administration would back such a relatively large raise while proposing major cuts in federal employment, and …
2) Shock and horror from federal unions and some Washington-area politicians who say it’s an insultingly low amount. They said a 3.2 percent adjustment next year would be the right thing to do at a minimum.
Federal workers got no pay raises in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Zero.
From 2014 through this year, the raises were 1 percent, 1 percent, 1.3 percent and 2.1 percent. All of those amounts were far less than called for by the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, a catchup-with-industry pay law that was ignored by the Clinton and Bush and Obama administrations, during which there was a three-year pay freeze (two proposed by a White House panel and the third added by a gleeful Congress).
Lost in the Goldilocks debate over whether 1.9 percent is too much, not enough or just right is the fact that nobody has made it official.
In March, the Washington Post reported that the president will recommend a 1.9 percent raise next month when the Trump administration’s first full, detailed budget goes to Congress. The so-called ‘skinny budget’ submitted earlier made no mention of pay raises, but did propose big cuts (as much as 100 percent) for some domestic agencies and boards, while proposing a big increase in Defense spending. The Post said the 1.9 percent figure was confirmed by a “senior budget official” and was also in a preliminary blueprint for Commerce Department officials telling it to “factor in a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian employees” effective next January. Since then, the raise has been reported by various news outlets, including Federal News Radio, although none have the confirmation that the Post does.
There is no reason to doubt that nonpostal federal workers will get a 1.9 percent raise as reported. Just as there is little reason to suppose feds will get the higher amount proposed by some members of Congress and federal unions. Makes sense. But …
There have been lots of surprises from this administration, starting with the fact that it’s the Trump, rather than the Clinton administration. And even in its short time in office (which wasn’t supposed to happen, according to almost all ‘experts’) it has shown over and over again that it sometimes zigs when the pros predicted it would zag. So keep your fingers crossed but don’t base next February’s vacation in the Bahamas on any raise until it shows up in your direct deposit account.