By Erik Wasson
Obama to propose 1 percent pay raise for federal workers
President Obama, in next week’s budget proposal, will propose giving civilian federal workers a 1 percent pay increase in 2015.
The pay hike would come on the heels of a 1 percent increase that took effect on Jan. 1. That brought an end to a three-year pay freeze and took place after many federal workers lost pay due to sequestration-related furloughs.
“A 1 percent pay increase in 2015 is consistent with what the president proposed in last year’s budget and the increase that civilian employees received at the start of 2014. It reflects the tight budget constraints we continue to face, while also recognizing the critical role these civilian employees play in our country,” an administration official said.
The official noted military pay has increased every year since Obama came into power, and he will recommend a 1 percent pay increase next year.
The budget is due for release on March 4. The president can order the pay increase unilaterally under existing law, as long as Congress does not act to block it during the upcoming appropriations process for 2015.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who typically leads the fight to expand and protect federal worker benefits, praised the move.
“This modest COLA [cost-of-living adjustment] would go a long way in further recognizing the value of federal employees and help bring to a close years of pay freezes,” she said. “Federal employees have been undervalued and underappreciated for too long.”
Conservatives are arguing any broad pay increase is too much.
"The president’s proposal is misguided," Dan Holler of Heritage Action said. "Absent a broad-based reform that allows pay to rise for good workers while reducing overall benefit costs, a pay freeze is appropriate."
The proposed pay increase is not enough for some union leaders, however.
The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents Internal Revenue Service workers, among others, said it will push for a 3.3-percent raise.
"I strongly believe that federal employees deserve more, and this amount is inadequate," NTEU President Colleen Kelley said.
Kelley argued that, over the last four years, private sector pay has increased by 6.5 percent compared to the 1 percent for federal workers. She also noted adjustments for high-cost localities like Washington, D.C., have not been increased in recent years.
The largest federal worker union also denounced the increase.
American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox said "a 1 percent pay raise for federal employees who have seen more austerity than anyone else is pitiful."
Jessica Klement, legislative director with the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said the organization believes the increase should be at least 1.9 percent, based on pay data for the year ending in September.
— This report was updated at 2:59 p.m.