Trump signs 2019 spending bill, federal pay raise into law

Updated 12 p.m. Feb. 15, 2019

President Donald Trump said he will sign a multi-billion-dollar spending package into law Friday morning, the final step needed to avoid another government shutdown by the end of the week.

With the president’s signature, federal employees have a secured an average 1.9 percent pay raise for the rest of the year. The spending package also finalizes funding for all of government through Sept. 30, the rest of fiscal 2019.

Trump on Friday morning also declared a national emergency along the southern border, taking executive action designed to begin construction of a border wall in the region.

For civilian employees, a signed spending deal has reversed the pay freeze that Trump implemented on the first of the year. Specifically, it would provide a 1.4 percent across-the-board raise, as well as a 0.5 percent locality pay adjustment.

The 1.9 percent pay raise is retroactive to Jan. 1, or the first applicable pay period of 2019. It should also bring some good news to federal employees in the six new locality pay areas that the president approved late last year. Nearly 72,000 employees in Birmingham, Alabama; Burlington, Vermont; Corpus Christi, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; San Antonio, Texas; and Virginia Beach/Norfolk, Virginia, were placed in their own, separate locality pay areas back in December. But with pay rates frozen at 2018 levels, those employees didn’t reap the benefits of having their own locality area designations.

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Federal employee organizations applauded the decision to reverse the 2019 pay freeze.

“To say federal employees are relieved is an understatement,” Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said. “So far, 2019 has not been kind to our federal workforce, but this bipartisan compromise funding package is a refreshing turnabout that gives their agencies stable funding and their paycheck a modest bump.”

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) also praised the pay bump.

“Lagging behind the private sector for decades when it comes to competitive salaries, the federal government needs to maintain a well-qualified and high-performing workforce now more than ever,” NARFE National President Ken Thomas said. “This average 1.9 percent pay increase is a small, yet positive, step to ensure the federal government can recruit and retain the best of the best for the benefit of the American people.”

The vice president and political appointees will also receive a 1.9 percent pay raise. Their pay has been frozen since at least 2010. The Office of Personnel Management earlier had instructed agencies to hold off on giving appointees a previously-scheduled and larger raise.

The bill also increases the Executive Schedule caps, meaning that GS-15 employees who have reached the Executive Schedule ceiling would see their pay increased by 1.9 percent as well. GS-15s in this situation have had their pay frozen for several years, as their salaries were largely frozen with Executive Schedule appointees.

The spending package does not include back pay for federal contractors impacted by the recent government shutdown, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday was part of last-minute negotiations.

Both the House and Senate passed the spending measure late Thursday, after Trump told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that he planned to the sign the measure and declare a national emergency along the southern border.

The bill passed easily, with a 83-16 vote in the Senate and a 300-128 vote in the House.

$22.5 billion for homeland security

The spending package, which lawmakers first unveiled Wednesday night, includes the deal that conferees struck earlier this week to fund the Department of Homeland Security and roughly $1.4 billion for 55 miles of new physical barriers along the southern border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

DHS will receive an additional $100 million for new border security technology. The budget doesn’t include new funding to hire additional Border Patrol agents above the current on-board levels. But it does provide $59 million for 600 new Customs and Border Protection officers and encourages the agency to use fee funding to hire an additional 600 CBP officers on top of that.

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement will receive $40 million to hire new employees dedicated to the Alternatives to Detention program.

The Secret Service will receive funding to boost staffing to 7,650 employees, the highest level in decades, according to House Democratic appropriators. The agency will also get an additional $9.5 million for overtime pay.

The newly renamed Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will receive $111 million more than it originally counted on.

IRS, Census and other appropriations

The new package also sets spending levels for the remaining six, still-unfunded appropriations bills.

The IRS is set to get $11.3 billion, $75 million more than last year. IRS operations will also receive an additional $90 million, while another $40 million is set aside for business systems modernization. The agency will receive $77 million dedicated toward implementing the rest of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The Census Bureau will secure $1 billion more than the previous year to prepare for the 2020 decennial.

The General Services Administration has been authorized to spend $9.3 billion from the Federal Buildings Fund. The bulk of those funds will go toward the Transportation Department’s lease purchase and phase two of the Calexico West Land Port of Entry construction, which are two of GSA’s high-priority projects.

Though GSA will receive about $200 million more than last year, this year’s budget will fall $847 million below the president’s request.

In addition, Congress has appropriated $25 million toward the Technology Modernization Act. The Office of Personnel Management will receive another $14 million toward its modernization efforts.

More caution on proposed agency reorganizations

Like in previous years, the budget deal prohibits agencies from conducting large-scale reorganization or reallocation of offices, programs and staff without advance permission from congressional appropriations committees.

The Office of Management and Budget last summer proposed the reorganization of several federal departments and agencies.

The spending bill weighs in on some of the reorganization proposals.

Appropriations committees, for example, have directed the Office of Personnel Management to submit a report within 30 days that describes “the budgetary implications of moving HR [Solutions] to the [General Services Administration] and the legal authority under which it proposes to transfer the HRS function within the OPM revolving fund,” the bill’s explanatory statement reads. The committees also want quarterly reports from OPM with the status of the agency’s program and office relocations.

The committee overseeing the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration encourage both agencies to be “mindful of congressional authority to determine and set final funding levels for fiscal year 2020.” The agencies shouldn’t “presuppose” funding and prematurely redirect staff without knowing the next year’s budget.

The committee said it still has funding questions and concerns about the proposed transfer of USDA’s Economic Research Service to the Office of the Chief Economist and the potential move of ERS outside the national capital region. Without more information and a cost-benefit analysis, the committee opposes the proposed moves.

The Interior Department will receive $14 million in new funding to begin reorganization of the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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