What a pay increase would mean to feds

Federal Times' Jessie Bur breaks down a pay increase passed by the House.

The House passed general government and financial services appropriations legislation June 26 that included a 3.1 percent pay raise for federal employees in 2020.

The bill, which progressed on a 224-to-196 vote that fell largely along party lines, would grant federal employees a 2.6 percent bump to their base pay, with an additional .5 percent increase to locality pay.

Should the legislation pass the Senate as is and get signed into law, it would mark the largest federal pay increase in a decade and contradict President Donald Trump’s proposal to freeze that pay in 2020.

The legislation also puts a hold on many Trump administration reorganization initiatives, such as merging a majority of the Office of Personnel Management’s functions under the General Services Administration and relocating two agencies within the Department of Agriculture.

According to recent data compiled by the American Federation of Government Employees, approximately two out of every three employees at the Agricultural Research Service — one of the agencies scheduled to be relocated — plan to decline that relocation, draining a significant portion of that agency’s workforce.

An amendment to the bill would also prohibit the Office of Personnel Management from furloughing its employees if denied in its request to merge the two agencies.

“The House’s support for competitive federal pay rates reflects the value of the critical roles federal employees play in keeping our country running safely, securely and efficiently. Passage of the bill today also sends a loud and clear message to the administration that merging OPM with the General Services Administration and moving civil service policy to the Executive Office of the President is not in the best interest of the American people," said National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association National President Ken Thomas in a statement.

"We appreciate the hard work and leadership of the House Appropriations Committee for shepherding this bill throughout the legislative process in a timely manner and look forward to continue working with the Senate to pass similar legislation that includes the pay raise and prevents the ill-conceived reorganization of OPM.”

The legislation could also potentially address some of the financial challenges faced by the U.S. Postal Service by providing support for the expansion of non-banking financial services offered by the agency, as a means of expanding financial opportunities available to rural Americans.

Congress has until the end of September this year to pass appropriations legislation or a continuing resolution in order to avert another government shutdown in 2019.