The Senate Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to proceed with their response to the House’s earlier general government funding legislation Sept. 19, which would give federal employees a slightly smaller pay increase than the record-setting raise offered by the House.
According to analysis released by the Senate Appropriations Committee’s minority members, the new bill is silent on cost of living adjustments for federal employees in 2020, which would result in the government defaulting to the 2.6 percent across the board increase planned by the White House.
Legislation passed by the House in late June proposed to give federal employees an average .5 percent increase to COLAs on top of the 2.6 percent across the board increase, which would constitute the largest federal pay increase in a decade. That increase would also be in line with the planned pay adjustments for military personnel.
“Private-sector pay increases continue to outpace federal pay rates, and Congress has approved a 3.1 percent pay increase for the uniformed service members often working side by side their civilian counterparts. Yet, Senate appropriators have abrogated their responsibility and put their trust in the president, who has indicated support for a below-market 2.6 percent pay raise,” National Active and Retired Federal Employees National President Ken Thomas said in a statement.
“NARFE urges Senate appropriators to follow the lead of their House colleagues and provide federal workers with a 3.1 percent pay raise.”
The legislation would keep in place a House-passed ban on the Trump administration using any of the approved funding to effectuate a breakup of the Office of Personnel Management or move OPM functions to the General Services Administration.
White House officials have argued that the reorganization would help the government save money and make the IT managed by OPM more modern and effective.
Opponents, however, worry that the plan is designed to politicize the civil service while weakening the power of the agency that is supposed to protect employee benefits and labor relations.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have said that the administration has not provided enough evidence or rationale for why the merger is necessary, and the Senate bill would offer $43 million more in OPM funding to counteract administration arguments that the agency would not have the funding to operate if the reorganization does not take place.
The Senate bill also removes additional funding for the Technology Modernization Fund, which is designed to provide agencies with loans to boost IT modernization initiatives.
The fund only received $100 million out of the $250 million authorized by statute in its first year. Appropriators then added $25 million in 2019 appropriations legislation.
Some legislators have stated their reluctance to keep funneling money into a program that has yet to yield results, but as the agency pay back plans can extend years into the future, the fund risks running out of money and being forced to stop considering new agency projects until the old ones begin to pay the money back.
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s funding plans are not set in stone, as the legislation must first survive a vote on the Senate floor and a resolution of differences with the House bill before being sent to the president’s desk.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.