Congress Approves 3.5 Percent Pay Raise for Feds

Federal employees, both civilian and military, can expect to receive a 3.5 percent pay increase in January after Congress approved the increase over the weekend.

Federal workers received an early gift for the holidays over the past weekend as members of Congress approved a $388 billion omnibus spending package that provides an average 3.5 percent pay increase for all federal workers.

The pay increase is more than double the 1.5 percent pay increase for federal civilian employees sought by President Bush last February. Over the past seven years both President Bush and President Clinton proposed a smaller increase for federal civilian employees than for their military counterparts. However, each year Congress has approved pay parity for military and civilian federal employees.

The approval over the weekend also means that federal employees will actually begin receiving the higher pay in January instead of having to receive the increases retroactively as a result of Congress failing to complete spending bills until after the new year.

Supporters of the increase have argued that numerous federal civilian employees play vital roles in national security and in defense of the country.

Opponents of the 3.5 percent increase stated that the 3.5 percent increase exceeded inflation and would add an extra $2.2 billion in spending. In fact, Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, sent a letter to Congress last week stating that a 3.5 percent increase would be difficult to cover and suggested that such approval could lead to federal job cuts.

The House approved the spending bill by a bipartisan 344-51 vote, while Senate passage was 65-30. readers have had plenty to say over the past few weeks concerning the pay increase. Some of the comments from readers included:

“I wouldn’t mind too much not getting my pay raise this year as long as EVERYTHING ELSE (rent, insurance, food, etc.) remained the same. But we all know it doesn’t work that way. As for the military, I don’t really begrudge them a raise. After all, they are on duty 24/7 and I wouldn’t want to be on duty 24/7 – unless I was a cardiac surgeon. What gets me is that you never hear a member of Congress volunteering to give up his or her raise.

“If I remember correctly, the first casualty in the war on terror was a CIA agent. When I think about the numbers of CIA, FBI, and Border Patrol Agents who really are on the front lines, I am at a loss to understand how their respective sacrifices get lost in the shuffle. Who am I? A civilian employee and a reservist. I think that I see both sides of the coin… its unfortunate that so many others do not.”

“I have worked for the federal government 3 times not counting my military service. I knew what to expect in the matter of pay raises when I hired on and COLA’s were not in the mix. I can earn more money by going up the scale or can just sit back and take my step increases as scheduled. The same whiners about not getting the raise are the same ones who will whine about the tax increase to pay for it. What ever happened to personal initiative in this country? If you are that discontented, go find something else to do… Despite what this group of Socialists would have you believe, the government does not owe us a pay raise or a job. How soon we forget.”

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. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47