President Obama on Friday signed a six-month temporary spending bill that will keep the government open - and further freeze federal pay scales - until March 27. (File photo / Getty Images)
President Obama on Friday signed a six-month temporary spending bill that will keep the government open — and further freeze federal pay scales — until March 27.
Federal employees’ pay scales have already been frozen throughout 2011 and 2012, and the freeze was set to expire in January 2013. But Obama last month proposed extending the freeze until Congress passes an actual budget for fiscal 2013. Obama said next year’s pay raise — which he said should be 0.5 percent — should take effect at the time of the budget’s passage and not be retroactive to January.
The two leading federal employee unions — the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union — have strongly denounced the government’s decision to extend the pay freeze. Union leaders pledged to lobby Congress to make next year’s pay raise retroactive to January 2013.
The $1.047 trillion spending bill adds 0.6 percent to 2012’s spending levels. The House Appropriations Committee said those small increases “are needed to prevent catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, or to ensure good government and program oversight.”
Those increases include more money to Customs and Border Protection to maintain its current levels of officers and Border Patrol agents, the Veterans Benefits Administration to handle an increase in the disability claims workload, and the Interior Department and Forest Service to fight wildfires.
If the CR or a full budget had not been passed and signed before the fiscal 2012 budget’s Sept. 30 expiration, the government would have shut down.