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Will civilian pay raises come?

Hours before the federal government was due to shut down Nov. 21, President Donald Trump signed a continuing resolution to keep agencies funded through Dec. 20. The measure assured uniformed military personnel a 3.1% pay raise, but none of the12 appropriations bills Congress has yet to finalize has mentioned a pay raise for civilian employees.

Last December, Trump issued an executive order that froze a planned pay raise for government employees, lending credibility to fears that the same may occur this year in budget talks between Congress and the White House. Two months later, the president reversed course in another executive order, granting federal employees a 1.9% raise including locality pay.

Though no recent statements have been made, Trump sent a letter dated Aug. 30 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) laying out his support for a 2.6% raise for federal employees, though he said that locality pay rates would remain the same. On June 26, the House passed an appropriations bill that included a raise for federal employees that came out to 3.1%, with a 2.6% raise and average .5% locality adjustment.

So far, the Senate appropriations committee has not issued a statement in favor of any particular proposed pay rate. Groups like National Active and Retired Federal Employees that represent government workers are advocating for a 3.1% pay raise. “It’s on par with private sector pay raises,” NARFE Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Jessica Klement told FCW. “It’s a very reasonable ask.”

ICF Senior Vice President Jeffrey Neal, the former Department of Homeland Security chief human capital officer, said it’s likely Democrats in Congress would make raises for federal employees a chief concern as the Dec. 20 deadline approaches. “The 2.6% pay raise is something that the Democrats are going to make certain is in the appropriations bills,” Neal told FCW, citing the party’s support for federal employees. “The White House has to decide [whether] it would be willing to shut down the government over a small pay raise for federal workers, whether that’s where they want to use their political capital.”

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