Pay Freeze to Continue Through March

It is not a shock or even a surprise to those who pay attention to what is going on with regard to federal pay and benefits but here is the bad news for those who may have been hoping for a pay raise. (See Extended Pay Freeze One Step Closer to Reality) On Friday, September 28, President Obama signed the continuing appropriations resolution that authorizes the government to spend money for another six months. It is called the “Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013” and it replaces the previous continuing appropriation resolution passed earlier this year. It continues funding the government until late in March 2013.

President Obama previously announced that federal employees will get a pay raise when Congress passes a budget. This new legislation is not a budget—it is just a continuing resolution. (No Pay Raise Until Congress Passes a Budget) Call it what you wish but, in effect, it means that the existing pay freeze for federal employees will remain in effect, probably until the Spring of 2013. We do not, of course, know what will happen after that time.

The political reality is that with national elections coming up in November, there is little incentive for either political party to create a possible campaign issue for the other side. The result is a stalemate. The House, which is controlled by Republicans has passed numerous bills but the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, will generally not pass or even vote on the more substantive legislation that comes from the House.

So, until American voters decide in which direction they wish to see the country move in the next election, and we see which party will occupy the White House and the two Houses of Congress, very little will be done.

The current pay freeze started in January 2011. It could be worse as there has not been a freeze on other raises such as promotions, within-grade increases or performance awards but, without a doubt, many in the federal workforce are not happy about not getting a raise.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

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  1. Julyzbabi says:

    People act as if federal workers do menial work. We work for the nation not just where we live. I have a responsibility for a region. On private sector terms that equals a six figure income!! The majority of us are not sloughs we are hard working people who work for millions of citizens and we’re getting slammed for it?? Really?? I have worked private sector majority of my life, and though the rules and regulations are more stringent, the workload does not compare to the Fed Govt’ work…If I was in private industry doing what I do as a Fed, I would be making 6 figures now. People really need to EDUCATE themselves of every thing involved BEFORE making comments and accusations. Majority of the so called reports do not reflect what a particular position is doing, there just creating rhetoric to sell a paper or article. WAKE UP!!…#thedumbingdownofAmerica  

  2. 40 Year Government Employee says:

    Don’t you realize that Obama is playing the ends against the middle.  All he wants is for the people to put the pressure on Congress while he takes a vacation!!  A person that has never held a job don’t know what the workers go through.  I will not fight Obama’s battle for him!!  Why can’t Obama fight his own battles???

  3. Sinatrassweety says:

    Seriously this is ridiculous. I’m a federal employee, and yes I’m making under $50,000/yr. I used to look forward to receiving maybe an extra $20/paycheck. This would help me pay for diapers, formula, etc. I just find it surprising that Obama would give this the go ahead while he’s supposed to be a “democrat” and for the people….I guess just not my people (middle class). And for those saying “be thankful you have a job”….not the case. I am thankful to have a job, but it is very discouraging when you break your behind for your job, and get nothing in return for years. There’s no sort of incentive. Everything is going up, and salary is stagnant. It really sucks for a lack of a better word.

  4. a bit disgruntled says:

    I didn’t agree with the pay freeze. After some thought, I thought I could support it if I knew that the amount saved was directly used to reduce the national debt.  I’ve seen various news articles in which it was stated that the freeze only saved a few billion.  

    I think more thought could have been put into this decision.  I just retired and it obviously affected my high three (as I suppose it does all employees indirectly).  I think there should have been an exception to the freeze for those in the last years of their public service.  I think this freeze will affect my vote.

  5. Claire Gehrettt says:

    This country needs to stand up, somehow, and get time limits on our Congressional folks and also, vote out the Senate parties that would not work with this President..  If you are not willing to help the President of the Country, you need to leave your seat and give it someone that is interested in moving this country forward and extend your hands and minds to whatever President this country has decided upon.   The President doesn’t do anything alone, he has to have a majority to help him.  Our Country is in debt and to believe or suggest it all happened with one man is ridiculous.  Get rid of Pelosi, Senate seats that will never concede and put on time limits to the Congressional seats. Everyone, after a period of time, doesn’t think right.  I would like to know what Ted Kennedy did while he was sick, what he did for his country,  I want to know what makes this country believe that our Congressional seats are so smart, they never get old or forget.  I, at 73, many times have forgotten what I did yesterday, and I have always been bright and understanding.  I propose all Congressional seats terminate, let us get a new Congress .  We should have a Congress for 8 years only, the same as our President has and if they can’t do the job in 8 years, let’s move them on also.  All our problem exist because people won’t work with people, these folks are so past-due in their minds, they don’t have one.  They go along with whoever is sitting next to them.  They know each other too well, party too much with each other, and they have decided what one thinks, all think.  I don’t believe any of them have minds of their own.  Please, please, let’s change and follow our constitutional rights, replace people who don’t want to work, don’t want to do their job, or they favor what they hear from someone else.  Some of them absolutely will not work with one specific person, is that a grownup or is that a baby.  Help Americans clean up the lazy, stupid, nonworking Senate, nonworking Congress.  Let’s get people in the job that love America, that love committing themselves to the very best job they can do.

  6. Fairness, please says:

    Freezing wages on all government employees is unfair. Most of us have college degrees and have been working hard as seasonal employees for 10-20 years, moving constantly, chasing jobs without benefits or step increases. Yes, I’m fortunate to love my job, but my wages are scrawny compared to most, and I don’t appreciate politicians freezing my wages to pretend they’re reducing the deficit. It not only reduces the quality of life of employees, but it reduces the ability of agencies such as the National Park Service to get anything done, when employees are constantly leaving to try to chase jobs in the private sector. While there are some permanent DOI employees who are making high wages, most of us are not. We work just as hard as employees in the private sector, yet are treated like we are ‘living off the fat of the lamb’. Give me a break. I have worked in offices in the private sector where people are constantly sitting around the coffee maker or checking facebook/twitter/IM, so there are good and bad seeds in every batch. I’m sick of people sitting on their high horses talking down about federal employees. I pay taxes and work hard, just like most people, but my wages are frozen…unlike most. 

  7. Zon05454 says:

    What a debacle! Another extension of pay freeze. What about rising costs not to mention my health insurance rates increasing each year! So, this is how the government reduces its costs. Instead of reducing pay, just raise everything else up. The most amazing thing is that when I call all of the entities that I pay each month, mortgage company, utilities, food stores, etc. they are not willing to lower their prices just because I am bringing home les each month!
    Concerned CSRS employee

  8. Retired Fed says:

    Should be a very Merry Christmas this year. I must check to see if any of my bills have gone down.

  9. Vote next month says:

    Believe POTUS had the authority to have an Executive Order signed before Aug 31, 2012 and Congress could of not stop this order. Would of granted a .5% COLA. Did he do it heck NO! He wants Congress to do this after the election, so remember this when you visit the poles next month to vote. 

    • The Master says:

      POTUS can’t give that pay raise unles Congress includes funding in the budget. No budget from Congress blocks POTUS from being able to give that insult to us.

  10. TexasVet says:

    I think that is a sad state of affairs when all “we” can do is fingerpoint blame.  “We” elect these persons into office.  If they dont do a good job in accordance with what you believe a good job should be, vote.

    I dont agree with the pay freeze.  But it is my responsibility to support the Commander In Chief and the boots on the ground.  While I was in the military, that is all we talked about.  How we were underpaid in comparison to the civilian sector.  So, just change the uniform and the talk is the same.  Bombard your congressman with emails in regards to this matter.

    But, here is the funny/sad part.  “We” as a people came together and spoke as one voice to get rid of the replacement referres that did so poorly.  But, we cant come together to compromise on issues such as this. 

    Thank you

    • Jim says:


           Totally agree with you; I’ve written numerous emails to our congresswoman.  Don’t know if she or her staff reads them though, never once received any kind of response from them.  Last one I wrote, I told her that she had lost my vote.  More people need to bombard their elected officials.

      Thank you,
      from another Texas Vet

  11. Black_Diamond says:

    LOLOL Retiree Pay raises are tied to social security raises. Sorry Charlie

  12. whyworryme says:

    Like it or not Federal Pay will be frozen thru 2015. At that time congress will impose new contributions to FERS and CRS as well as a freeze in their COLAS

  13. Federette says:

     With the continuing pay freeze, the rise in FEHB of 3.8% and the probable end of the 2% payroll tax cut, I will have a 5.8% pay cut. No step raises or promotions for me. I’m at the top of the ladder as a GS6. Even though I have had an Outstanding Performance rating for two years, there are no incentives or pats on the back for the work I do caring for our wounded veterans.
    I am personally tired of being the economic pariah and blamed for fiscal policies that I  did not have a hand in. So why am I being punished for the poor decisions of those in the Ivory Tower. Sorry America, it wasn’t me who caused this financial mess. Get off my back!

    • Pascomo56 says:

      You are not having your pay cut by 5.8%.  That is a 3.8% increase on your FEHB cost, not on your salary.  Also, you are paid to do 100% for your pay and that should be enough incentive in that you have a job.

      • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

        I think you’re being unrealistic about human nature.  Yes, it’s proper for us all to give a solid day’s work for a day’s pay.  But Federette is smarting because a sizable portion of Congress is treating her with contempt, despite being her boss.  She didn’t say she wouldn’t work hard, she’s saying that it stinks to be insulted and to have her purchasing power reduced, while she helps clean up the mess made by Congress’s decisions to wage war.  I think she has a very fair point.

      • Dissappointed says:

        Federette,  That’s right.  Techically you are getting the same pay so your gross pay is not cut.  What you are talking about is net pay, the amount that you actually live on.  Please don’t start in about inflation.  You are getting the same pay, so your pay is not being cut.  Its just that while the Federal Reserve inflates money while your income is static, your standard of living is declining.  That’s the squeeze you are feeling, not a pay cut.  Fortunately, it appears that you have an underprivileged, dejected CSRS employee who would be willing to trade retirement programs with you.  So quit carping, we want 110% from you-remember you can be replaced.                    

      • cmd1998 says:

        Where does all this distasteful attitute towards the federal employee come from?  You sound like a laid off, jealous contractor.  So Federette has a job and maybe you don’t.  Instead of crying about it, get up and fix the problem. 

    • DON_Supervisor says:

      That’s all part of having “skin” in the game.  Now if we could just get the 48% who pay no federal income taxes to chip in you may not have to take it on the chin so much.

      • $31427826 says:

        all part of having “skin” in the game.  Now if we could just get the
        48% who pay no federal income taxes to chip in you may not have to take
        it on the chin so much.”  What type of comment is that?  The 47% who do not pay federal income taxes are not the biggest part of the problem.  They include retired people on SS who do not have income sufficient to tax, students in college, and other individuals whose income tax obligation is so low that it may be offset by various refundable credits.  Remember the 47% is not strictly a result of the economy or the so-called fail stimulus, but also a result of the Bush tax cuts.  He not only reduced the tax rates of the rich (although they received the highest percentage of the rate reduction). he also reduced the lowest rates (down to 10%) effectively eliminating some from the tax roles.

      • Honeybee60 says:

        You are really, really funny!!!  Are you a comedian?

        • DON_Supervisor says:

          No, I was just quoting Joe Biden.  Be careful who you vote for.  Obama is looking for that big peace divdend so he can expand his base through entitlements…food stamps, obama phones, welfare, etc…

          Federette, be happy that you have a job with government benefits. Nobody on the outside is going to feel sorry for you.

    • guest says:

      You are forgetting that you received a pay increase of 2% when the payroll tax was cut.  Ending the tax is just putting you back where you started.  CSRS employees did not receive the payroll tax cut, so this change doesn’t affect them at all.  You actually benefited from this for 2 years while your fellow feds who have enough service to be under CSRS did not.  As far as the FEHB increase – this is an increase of your premium amount.  However, the 3.8% applies to the premium amount which does NOT equal 3.8% of your pay.

      • Lee Lucas says:

        Love how the class warfare rhetoric of this White House has now circled the CSRS folks in with FERS…. God, when will we wake up and learn that this shared sacrifice crap Obama keeps spewing is killing us all.  Why work harder?  Why work?  Pay is the same.  A really interesting work ethic and philosphy.

  14. HRGuy71 says:

    Just doing our part to help with the federal deficit which is still adding more than $1 trillion every year. 
    Oddly enough, the money is coming directly from the Federal Reserve which is ordering the printing of trillions of dollars to fund our inability to rein in spending (not that anyone is really trying and the president says the $16 trillion isn’t a problem anyway). 
    Not sure how this will turn out but it can’t be good.

  15. FedUp says:

    I have really prospered under Obummer!   Worst administration ever to occupy the WH!   Come on November 6!   Thanks AFGE  for helping put this progressive in the WH!

    • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

      Why do you attribute your well-being to the President?  Seems to me that the Congress has no shortage of authority on budgetary and oversight matters.

      • Bean Counter says:

        Congress should be ashamed of themselves for not passing a Budget for nearly the entire time the “president” has been in office.  They have not done what they were elected to do, they all ought not be paid and all should not seek another term.  Very sad…

        • whyworryme says:

          The republican House has passed 2 budgets since taking over. Its old Harry Reaid that has REFUSED to pass a budget in over 4 years

          • $31427826 says:

             Again, two ridiculous budgets sent to the Senate, where they knew full well it would be rejected.  We need dialogue and debate on the issues, not grandstanding

        • Ironranger says:

          It ain’t Congress that’s has been lacking, it’s the Senate with good ol Harry, that’s been blocking any movement of bills from Congress!!

          • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

            Congress = House + Senate.

            “Congress” is not just another way of saying “House of Representatives”

          • $31427826 says:

             Your argument is a double edge sword my friend.  Why should the Senate pass a budget passed by the Tea Party House with tax cuts for the top bracket, higher defense spending and lower descretionary spending?  There has to be a dialogue between the two Houses and currently there is none.

      • contspec says:

        If you will remember, the president is the one who proposed the 2 year pay freeze.  He also proposed no pay raise until a budget is passed.  The democrats control the senate and has not passed a budget for 3 years.  They only need 51 votes to pass a budget so the dems don’t need the republicans.  Looks like you will go another year without a pay raise.  Thank you obama. 

        • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

          Sure, but a few things.  I’ve heard people speculate that Obama proposed a pay freeze, to head of a Republican effort to cut our pay.  I find that plausible, so I’m not ready to assume Obama had it in for us.

          Regarding the budget: that takes the House, the Senate, and the President to all agree on a budget.  If the House creates a budget that they know is completely different from something the Senate could accept or the President would sign, and *if* (I’m not assuming here) the House passes such a bill only for political theater, then it’s no better than having not passed a bill at all. So I’m not ready to assume House has acted much more virtuously than the Senate or than Obama on budgetary issues.

          That being said, one could imagine the current system being one in which all three of those groups propose budgets and then use reconciliation to sort out their compromises. So the Senate’s failure to pass their own version of a budget bill for the past few years really could indicate they’ve failed even more spectacularly than the other two groups over the past few years.

          • contspec says:

            the senate won’t even discuss a budget.  If the senate won’t even discuss a budget, you can’t reconcile the budget process. 

            As far as the republicans trying to decrease the pay, I don’t think that they would do actually do it.  The house, senate and president would have to agree to it and vote on it.  The powers to be in DC won’t address anything controversial  Social security, medicare and and the debt are major problems and they keep kicking the can down the road.   

            The president has shown that he just wants to spend, spend and spend some more.  I would rather vote for someone that hopefully will quit spending where we have over a trillion dollar deficit every year.  The Bush administration put us in the ditch and obama is taking the country over the cliff. 

          • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

            I agree that they can’t start reconciliation until each of those three groups indicates their starting position.  I was actually trying to say that, although I put that into an edit of my post, so perhaps you didn’t see that.

            I think you make a good point about a pay reduction requiring more controversy than Washington is willing to tackle at the moment.  I hadn’t thought of that.  I’m still going to consider it a possibility that Obama was protecting federal pay be freezing it, because back when he did that, it wasn’t at all clear (I think) that Washington lacked the collective will to lower our salaries.

            I really don’t know what Obama’s take on spending is.  A big concern for me, however, is that Romney has been so vague on policy and budgetary position that I can’t assess whether he’ll be better, worse, or even identical to Obama.

          • contspec says:

            If you remember, the first year obama was in office, civil service pay raise was less than the military but said the next year we would have pay parity.  Then he proposed a two year pay freeze.  If that was a republican president, the union would be screaming bloodly murder but they were basically silent.

            After 3.5 years of trillion dollar deficits, obama’s take on spending is spend and keep spending.  All of the complaining with bush’s spending and stating that he put us in the ditch but obama’s spending didn’t help.  It made it worst. 

            I think romney may be a little better than obama.  Neither are my choice.  Romney if he sticks to Ryan’s plan, it only slows the growth of government and large deficits will continue. 

            One of my concerns is with all of this spending and we fall over the financial cliff, what happens to social security, medicare and our pensions?

            This country can’t continue the way DC is operating.

          • George says:

            I am amazed that so many still blame this on Bush.  Everyone forgets that the country was rolling along fat dumb and happy.  Everyone forgets that since Gulf War I our military was enforcing a no-fly zone over Iraq.  Then 9/11 occurred. Does anyone really believe that our response at home and abroad was free?  Does anyone really believe that Saddam would not have interfered with our efforts to execute justice?  Could the U.S. maintained control of the Middle East from carriers for a prolonged period of time?  Then Katrina hit, and instead of moving people out of a hazardous area, our Gov’t was forced to be PC and rebuild.  Over $65 Billion in initial response costs and clean up and an additional $50 Billion+ public works project.  The facts indicate that this time period was likely one of the most costly in U.S. history and Bush was stuck paying the bill.

          • LikeBuffaloWingsALittleTooMuch says:

            Okay, so we’re attacked by bin Laden, who has nothing to do with Iraq, and in response we attack Iraq?  And use selective intelligence to justify that?  As well as the corollary, which is that we had less attention and resources to use in Afghanistan, which  apparently really did have something to do with 9/11?  The blame for that absolutely lies with Bush.  Oh, and the fact that it significantly weakened a counter-balance to Iran, which you may have noticed isn’t working out so well for us (or Israel).  

            The insistence to put those wars on our credit card lies with both Bush and the Congress.

            Regarding Katrina, you may remember that the director of FEMA was a Bush Appointee, Michael Brown.  Brown’s qualifications for running an emergency readiness and response agency?  (1) He ran the International Arabian Horse Association, and (2)   he was the long-time friend of Joe Allbaugh, who ran Bush’s 2000 campaign.  You’ll note that nothing in Brown’s resume has anything to do with a capacity for ensuring that FEMA was ready to deal with Katrina.  There’s no doubt that the problem’s with New Orleans’ levies existed before Bush, and that the city doesn’t necessarily deserve our whole country’s resources to prevent it from becoming Atlantis.  But FEMA’s poor response to Katrina can absolutely be laid at the feet of Bush appointing a crony, rather than a qualified person, to head FEMA.

      • Dissappointed says:

        Just because the Congress is full of bums doen’t mean the President can’t be one also.

    • Fed Peasant says:

      Have the Cato Institute spemd some money for you.