Pay & Benefits

New bills would give big bump to federal employee pay in 2019

On Thursday Sen. Brian Schatz, D-HI, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., introduced bills in their respective chambers that would provide salaried and hourly federal employees with a 3 percent pay adjustment in 2019.

The Federal Adjustment of Income Rates Act, or FAIR Act, includes a 2 percent increase in basic pay and a one percent increase in locality pay.

“Whether they manage fisheries for NOAA or keep our airports safe as part of the TSA, federal workers in every part of this country and around the world protect and serve the American people,” said Schatz. “This legislation allows us to right the wrongs from furloughs, sequestration, and pay freezes by giving these hardworking public servants the raise they deserve.”

Connolly was critical of Republicans’ treatment of federal employees in recent years:

“For too long Republicans in Congress have treated the federal workforce like a national piggy bank. They’ve endured three years of pay freezes, a government shutdown, sequestration cuts, furloughs, and a mindless across-the-board hiring freeze. And to make matters even worse, the president has treated federal employees like his own rhetorical punching bag - hurling insults and falsehoods. Yet, despite this increasingly challenging environment, our federal employees continue to serve with dedication and distinction every day. They deserve better. The FAIR Act is a step towards recognizing their contributions and providing fair and just compensation.”

Though both the House and Senate versions of the bill have largely Democratic support, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., Is the only Republican to support the legislation. Comstock’s district is located in Northern Virginia, just west of Washington, D.C.

Federal employees received a 1.9 percent pay increase in 2018, slightly higher than the rate of pay increases employees had been receiving in prior years. The FAIR act would add to that more than one full percentage point in 2019.

Federal employee groups applauded the bill’s introduction, reiterating the sentiment that the FAIR act recognizes the contributions of employees that have had to make pay and benefit sacrifices in recent years.

Of those that supported the bill, said Federation of Government Employees president J. David Cox Sr., expressed gratitude for understanding that the importance to pay its employees fairly “so we can recruit and retain the high-caliber workforce that the public expects and deserves.”

“They also know the financial sacrifice that federal workers have made in the name of deficit reduction. Federal employees have had their pay and benefits cut by over $182 billion and growing since 2011, and they are earning 4.7 percent less today than they did at the start of the decade.”

“Economic forecasters estimate that wages in the private sector will rise an average of 3 percent in 2018, so it is perfectly reasonable for federal employees to expect the same modest increase in their paychecks,” said Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union. “We applaud Sen. Schatz and Rep. Connolly for introducing legislation that treats federal employees with respect and recognizes their contributions to national security, economic growth and public health.”

The Senate bill has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the House bill to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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