House to support 2.7% federal pay raise, Wexton says

The House of Representatives appears ready to go along with the president’s proposed 2.7% federal pay raise for civilian employees next year.

Appropriators are preparing draft 2022 bills for release later this week.

“We seem to have consent across the board for that 2.7%, and that’s what’s going to be included in our appropriations bill coming out of the House,” Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) said Tuesday at the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association’s virtual legislative conference. “I’m pretty sure the Senate is planning to do the same thing, and so I feel very cautiously optimistic that that’s what we’re going to see happen.”

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government is expected to mark up a draft of the 2022 bill Thursday.

The full committee will release the text of the 2022 financial services bill Wednesday, a committee spokesman said when asked to confirm the House’s plans for federal pay.

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), vice chairman of the financial services and general government subcommittee, declined to preview what the House might propose later this week.

“I think you’re going to be happy, but it’s too soon to say exactly what to expect,” he told NARFE members Tuesday.

A 2.7% federal pay raise is line with what the president recommended in his 2022 budget, which the White House released in full late last month, and is equal to the proposal for active-duty military members.

That proposal is a recognition of the “meaningful work performed by employees to better our nation,” said Pam Coleman, associate director of performance and personnel management for the Office of Management and Budget.

“The administration values the federal workforce and is committed to having the executive branch be the employer of choice,” she said Tuesday during NARFE’s legislation conference. “We understand the vital role that decent pay plays in the lives of our employees.”

It’s still unclear how exactly locality pay will fit into either the House or White House plans. OMB last month told Federal News Network it was currently evaluating “a number of options ahead of a final decision” in the president’s alternative pay plan.

The White House must submit alternative pay plans to Congress by the end of August.

Wexton said she supports a 2.7% bump for civilian employees next year, though she prefers a 3.2% federal pay raise or something higher. She’s a co-sponsor of the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act, which calls for a 3.2% pay bump in 2022.

The mark-up of House appropriations bills later this week will begin a long, multi-step process for setting and finalizing federal employee pay raises.

Congress doesn’t have to legislate federal pay raises, and in fact hasn’t usually done so until recently.

Congress twice intervened on federal pay raises in recent memory, with lawmakers securing a 3.1% boost for civilian employees for 2020 and a 1.9% bump in 2019.

Last year’s omnibus spending package remained silent on federal pay for 2021, leaving it up to former President Donald Trump to make a 1% raise official for employees last New Year’s Eve.

Regardless of Congress’ plans for federal pay in 2022, President Joe Biden must make any adjustments official through an executive order, which usually comes near the end of the calendar year.

Unlike previous years, the president’s budget doesn’t recommend any significant changes to federal employee retirement or health insurance, and Coleman said the Biden administration will instead focus on improving those services.

The “Office of Personnel Management will be prioritizing funding to enhance a user-friendly Federal Employees Health Benefits plan and provider information and resource tools for enrollees — and to modernize retirement telecommunication platforms and services to better reach annuitants and their family members,” she said.

When it comes to federal employee health insurance, NARFE is worried a popular, bipartisan bill aimed at improving the financial outlook for the U.S. Postal Service could have expensive consequences for the rest of the workforce.

In her own speech to members, Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee,  acknowledged NARFE’s concerns about the potential impact of the bill on federal health premiums.

Maloney is a lead sponsor of the Postal Service Reform Act, which would save USPS $46 billion over 10 years.

“You can rest assured that any final bill will not cause premiums for federal employees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to rise,” Maloney told NARFE members. “I am committed to this.”

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