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OPM: Pay raise coming soon

There's still no target date for federal employees to receive a congressionally mandated pay raise and back pay, but a senior official said the administration is close to finalizing the details that will put salary bump into effect.

The approval is "in the final legal clearance stage," Margaret Weichert, the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, told reporters after a March 20 event hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration.

"The [executive order] that unleashes the retroactive pay is dealing with pay tables that are so highly complex that it is exceedingly legalistic how we actually have to get this squared away," she said. "It is purely a lawyering activity that is near its end."

The hold-up, Weichert said, is due to the complexity of the legal process surrounding pay raises, and has "nothing to do" with the payroll systems.

"I totally get that people are frustrated it takes this long," she said. "I'm frustrated, too. And that is how this works in law, so we need to do it in a way that's appropriate to the complexity of what we're dealing with."

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), whose district is home to many federal employees and who has been pressing the administration to deliver on the pay raise, was more skeptical.

"Arcane legal analysis always seems to impede the Trump Administration when federal employees pay the price," he said. "These same legal hurdles disappear when the president wants to overstep legal and constitutional authorities to get funding for an unnecessary wall along the border. I think the only legal question here is why the administration is ignoring a law that requires back pay for our already beleaguered federal workforce. We need the administration to get its priorities straight."

Jason Briefel, executive director of the Senior Executives Association, said he found the explanation plausible.

"Aligning the policy changes from Congress and the EO with all of those systems, with legal requirements, with the technical [and] administrative piece certainly is not just as simple as flicking a switch on-off, especially given we have multiple federal payroll providers with different systems and processes," he said.

Jeff Neal, senior vice-president for ICF and a former agency chief human capital officer agreed, saying that while the pay raise could have been done faster, he said the delay to date "is not outrageous."

Another pay proposal the White House is planning, Weichert said, is a broad study on workforce compensation.

"One of the things we're about to go to field with is a broad, modern compensation, rewards and recognition study" looking at locality pay, work-life balance and rewards based on performance recognition, she said.

The administration plans to contract out the study. "We haven't made the award yet, so it's coming," she said. "But we have structured the ask and we're moving forward with that."

Weichert also said the White House is looking to delegate more "regulatory flexibility" regarding workforce and rewards to agency heads. The "overarching premise" of coming regulatory changes, she said, "is looking at how do we decentralize some of the things that are unnecessarily centralized today."

She's looking to give agency heads more authority in deciding whether employees should receive raises over the statutory cap.

"The OPM director doesn't have more information about who deserves that money than the agency head," she said.

Reader comments

Tue, Apr 2, 2019

The whole elected lot are a bunch of bottom feeding pond scum dwellers who have done nothing except to demoralize and cheat federal employees out of pay raises and their hard earned benefits.

Wed, Mar 27, 2019

Speaking to the person who thinks that government employees are whinny because we haven't got a raise that was promised 2 months ago. First off, I don't know what jobs you have had in the private sector or if you even had a job in the private sector, this BS with "furloughing" your employees for 35 days is a bunch of crap. While working at Burger King will not give you much in terms of benefits, taking a job with a company that wants to hire quality staff will usually have a nice benefit package. I have a son who works a janitorial job at Suburban Hospital and his benefits actually are better than my fed package. You talk like a Trump person. He too is so out of touch with reality as you seem to be. Most college degreed individuals who are sharp and have marketable skills can do quite well in the private sector. In most cases they are treated with a degree of respect and not thrown out on the street for a month because a bunch of dopes can't agree on a budget. Yes I got retro paid, but that doesn't absolve the government of blame. Yes I had reserves that kept me going, but some folks can't afford to save. Contrary to the public's opinion of the Federal workforce not everybody is paid a six figure salary. There are a whole bunch of folks who work hard for their money and deserve to be treated with respect and not scorn. And just for the record, Trump was calling for this shutdown to run months. Could you have survived that sort of duration without going bust? The issue with these furloughs is not knowing when they will end. To a normal person that is quite disturbing regardless of whether you eventually get back pay.

Wed, Mar 27, 2019

Another way to shaft federal employees of their income. We did not cause the shutdown, the morons in the administration, congress and senate are responsible and they have gotten away with their inept form of work ethics. Vote all out and start again with term limits, salary and benefit reductions and a 40 hour work week without special entitlements.

Fri, Mar 22, 2019 John Taylor Ca

Wonderful excuses. But I still remember the old days when (America was Great?)Things were never this complicated. The government shutting down certainly doesn't help things run smoothly I bet! Anyway, Congress used to pass a budget and the President signed it and we got our raises in January. Of course, they never really reflected the reality of cost of living increases we actually faced. And what happened under Obama was not necessary, either. But, so it goes...

Fri, Mar 22, 2019

It took 5 years to get a pay raise under the previous admin. Stay cool snowflakes, it's coming.

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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