Proposed Federal Pay Raise: What They Are Saying

January 9, 2012 9:21 PM , Updated November 2, 2019 4:12 PM
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The proposed 0.5% pay raise for federal civilian employees that is set to be included in the 2013 White House budget proposal has got a lot of people talking. Here’s a compilation of some of the reactions to the proposal.

Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

“Today the Obama Administration released a proposal to adjust federal civilian salaries in 2013, allowing for 0.5% increase, which falls short of the 1.2% base pay adjustment provided for under current law for 2013. While this modest increase is a positive step toward recognizing the contribution these hardworking men and women make in service to this nation, it must be pointed out that federal civilian employees have been experiencing the effects of a two-year pay freeze.  As a result, they have contributed $60 billion to deficit reduction over the next decade. In the coming days and weeks, I will consider the Administration’s proposed increase in the context of its overall 2013 budget proposal.”

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

“Federal employees are on the frontlines every day, working hard on behalf of the American people. For too long, deficit reduction has come on the backs of these hardworking men and women – through downsizing, diet COLAs, furloughs and shutdowns. They are already operating under a pay freeze, they are already facing deep cuts at their agencies and they have been targeted all year by Republican plans to extend their pay freeze or pass backdoor pay and benefit cuts. The Obama Administration’s plan recognizes that they can’t go another year without a pay increase. I will closely review the Administration’s plan in the context of the full 2013 budget proposal. Our federal employees deserve to be treated fairly, and they should be paid at a rate that keeps their salaries in line with inflation.”

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)

“Hard-working federal employees already have made a $60 billion contribution to deficit reduction through the two-year pay freeze.  They continue to be asked to do more for the American people with fewer resources.  News that the Obama Administration will request a pay increase for FY13 – albeit one that doesn’t keep pace with inflation or private-sector wage growth – is a welcome acknowledgement that federal employees have made sufficient sacrifices to help solve our nation’s fiscal problems.”

Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA)

“The Obama administration should at a minimum follow the standard formula for calculating pay raises, which the 0.5 percent increase proposal fails to do. Well over half of federal workers fall into the middle class and the civil service has already contributed more than $60 billion to deficit reduction with a multi-year pay freeze.  Small pay increases to an already underpaid workforce threaten to harm recruitment and retention efforts at a time when the federal government expects a wave of baby boomers to retire. Our nation is home to the best civil service in the world and they deserve compensation to match.”

Congressman Dennis Ross (R-FL)

“This pay raise is symbolic at best and pure politics at its worst. Federal employees are paid better, receive better benefits and enjoy unparalleled job security, compared to their private sector counterparts. The day after he [Obama] weakens our national defense, he gives government unions a raise. Astounding.”

Madeleine Bordallo
Guam Delegate

“Today’s announcement is encouraging news for many federal workers whom have had a pay freeze during one of the most fiscally-challenging times in our nation’s history. This proposal, though modest, would help our federal workers on Guam. I look forward to reviewing the rest of the president’s budget proposal when it’s released in February.”

Joseph A. Beaudoin
President, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE)

“The announcement that the White House is considering a 0.5 percent increase in federal worker earnings is a small breath of fresh air, considering today’s federal employees earn 26 percent less than their corporate counterparts. Our nation’s federal workers — like the border patrol agent in New Mexico and the VA nurse in Minnesota — perform important jobs, and our government must offer competitive salaries to keep the most qualified Americans in such positions. Private sector job pay rose 2.1 percent in 2011 while federal worker pay remained stagnant at zero. That is no way to attract and retain the best and brightest to serve our country.”

John Gage
President, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)

“After freezing federal employee’s salaries for two years, the Obama administration is proposing a minuscule half-percentage point increase in their wages next year. It’s less than half of the 1.2% nationwide adjustment employees are entitled to next year under the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, which was signed into law by the first President Bush in 1990. The proposal also effectively freezes locality pay for another year. The fact is, this increase is well below the rate of inflation of 3.6%, and will be wiped out by higher costs for health care, groceries and other essential needs.

“Federal employees aren’t overpaid government bureaucrats. They are the aircraft mechanics and commissary workers at local military bases, the nurses at the local VA hospital, the men and women guarding our borders and the claims representatives who process Social Security and disability benefits. Especially in these tough economic times, we must ensure that all workers are provided with fair and meaningful wage increases to prevent them from falling further behind. I urge Congress to approve a meaningful pay raise that will allow these employees to provide for their families.

“Having said that, we’re hopeful that this is a positive step that spells an end to the barrage of attacks on pay and benefits for working people and serves as an acknowledgement that attacking the jobs we have won’t create the new jobs we need.”

Colleen Kelley
President, National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU)

“The good news is that the pay freeze is ending, but I am disappointed at the size of the proposed 2013 increase. I believe federal employees have done their fair share to help address our budget problems, and I have been strongly urging the administration to end the pay freeze and propose a fair increase for federal employees in 2013. I believe something more reflective of private sector increases would have been more fair and appropriate.

“Federal workers safeguard our food, defend our borders, protect our air and water, guard our nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, conduct life-saving research, promote business innovation, and so much more. For the good of the country, we need the best and brightest in federal agencies.

“While Congress continues to consider extending the pay freeze for one to three more years, NTEU will continue to fight those efforts, and work toward increasing this proposed pay raise. It is time for the pay freeze to end and for federal employees to receive a fair pay raise that will prevent them from falling further and further behind other comparable positions. NTEU will continue to look for ways to increase the amount, while proposing alternative savings that will allow for an increase that will make a difference.”

William R. Dougan
President, National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE)

“Just days after federal employees entered the second year of a two year pay freeze, we are pleased to see that the Administration has decided to reward their hard work and sacrifice by lifting the freeze in 2013. Although we would have preferred a larger increase as prescribed by law, it is nonetheless a welcome development that the magnitude of federal employees’ sacrifice in recent years is being acknowledged. In the face of continued attacks on federal workers from Republicans
in Congress and conservative pundits in the media, this comes as a breath of fresh air for all those who serve their country every day.”

Carol A. Bonosaro
President, Senior Executives Association

“At the risk of sounding ungrateful, don’t spend it all in one place. One would hope that if nothing else, it would cover any potential increase to health insurance premiums and retirement contributions.”

Carl Goldman
Executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 26

“[The proposed 0.5% pay increase is] insufficient considering the large amount of money that federal workers have already contributed to deficit reduction.”

Gregory Junemann
President, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE)

“IFPTE applauds the Obama Administration for breaking the two year pay freeze. As IFPTE has reiterated time and time again, federal workers are well aware of the budgetary circumstances facing our nation. Even though the deficit and economic turmoil our nation continues to face is not the fault of federal workers, they have patriotically stepped up to the plate by accepting the two year pay freeze, which, at the end of the day, resulted in $60 billion in savings to the federal budget over ten years. It is heartening to see that the President has recognized this significant sacrifice that federal workers and their families have made, and has broken the two year pay freeze.

“With today’s promising jobs report, we all are hopeful that our economy is finally starting to rebound. That said, IFPTE looks forward to normalization of the COLA process in the coming years so that it is reflective of the true increase in the cost of living. All in all, this is a very good thing and the President is to be commended.”

The Washington Examiner
Editorial Staff – 1/8/2012

“The chief executive [Obama] wants to give federal civil servants a half-percent pay raise. The absurdity of this proposal is clear in light of the excellent reporting of USA Today’s Dennis Cauchon. In a series of stories in 2010 that drew emotional criticism from federal employee union leaders but no factual refutations, Cauchon used the government’s own data to show that civil servants’ compensation has far outstripped that of private-sector workers.

“The proposed raise is so small as to be largely symbolic, but that’s precisely the point: It carries a vital re-election year message from Obama to a key sector of his base constituency — unionized public employees. It tells them Obama will take care of them, even as he paves the way for firing half a million men and women in uniform who likely are not among his re-election supporters. The hard-eyed conclusion here must be that winning re-election is more important to Obama than assuring American security at home and abroad.”

Chris Edwards
Director of Tax Policy Studies, Cato Institute
Keep the Federal Pay Freeze

“I fear that as the economy gains strength and starts expanding, policymakers will forget that we’ve still got a $1 trillion budget deficit. Even with growth, we’re still heading for a Greek-style debt crisis unless we pursue major spending cuts. So Congress should decline Obama’s request and retain the federal pay freeze for a few more years. At the same time, policymakers should pursue cuts to excessively generous federal worker benefits.

“Controlling federal worker costs is only part of the budget solution, but it does make economic sense because [federal] pay and benefits have risen so rapidly over the last decade.”

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.