Trump sets pay rate for federal workers

President Trump sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday announcing 2018 pay rates for civilian government workers.

In the letter, Trump cited his authority in times of “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare” to make adjustments to the 2018 pay schedule for federal employees.

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If Trump had not acted, workers were scheduled for an across-the-board base pay raise of 1.9 percent. They also would have received an additional 26 percent on average in locality pay, but that figure is based on an outdated formula that presidents have routinely circumvented. Trump proposed an average 0.5 percent increase in locality pay instead, within the range of recent locality increases.

Trump will use his authority to lower across-the-board pay raises to 1.4 percent, with an average additional raise of 0.5 percent, depending on what city the worker lives in.

“We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a sustainable fiscal course,” Trump wrote.

“A pay increase of this magnitude is not warranted, and Federal agency budgets could not accommodate such an increase while still maintaining support for key Federal priorities such as those that advance the safety and security of the American people.”

Presidents have historically intervened to submit alternative pay plans for government workers to prevent larger pay increases that would kick in by default. Former President Obama froze government salaries in place from 2011 to 2013.

Obama implemented a 2.1 percent rate hike last year for 2017.

The overall 1.9 percent pay hike is consistent with Trump’s proposed budget. The White House has changed the formula it is using to get to that number by reducing the across-the-board pay hike to 1.4 and using the balance for adjustments to outside localities, so not everyone will see the 1.9 percent increase.

The raise is lower than some government workers unions and lawmakers had advocated for.

“[The National Treasury Employees Union] believes this figure is too low especially in light of the fact that federal law calls for a 1.9 percent across-the-board raise and private sector wages are growing at an even faster rate,” Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement. “Add to that, current proposals attacking the federal retirement system would result in a pay cut for federal workers.”

Trump will maintain the 2.1 percent pay increase for members of the military.

“I strongly support our men and women in uniform, who are the greatest fighting force in the world and the guardians of American freedom,” Trump wrote. “As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare, we must work to rebuild our military's readiness and capabilities.”

This story was updated at 1:21 p.m.