The debate over a pay raise for federal employees in 2013 has already begun in earnest.
The White House recently proposed a 0.5% pay increase as part of its 2013 budget proposal which is set to be released within the next couple of months.
Critics on both sides were quick to attack the proposal. Union leaders and members of Congress in districts with high percentages of federal workers criticized the proposal as being far too small, failing to keep pace with inflation or cost of living, or just being generally unfair after coming off of a two-year pay freeze.
The other side said that federal workers already are paid better and receive more generous benefits than the private sector, noted that studies showed that federal pay actually increased in 2011 despite the freeze, and said that keeping a freeze in place for a few more years was necessary to help combat the rapidly growing federal deficit.
Regardless of where your opinion lies in the debate, the notion of pay parity with the military is one argument that is likely to come up in defense of giving federal employees a larger raise in 2013.
Uniformed members of the military were given a 1.6% pay increase in 2012 by an executive order issued by President Obama. After a two-year pay freeze and only a 0.5% proposal for a pay raise in 2013, proponents seeking a higher pay raise are likely to cite precedent for pay parity with the military as a case for increasing the 2013 raise.
Pay parity may not always be a good thing though. What if the military is getting a smaller raise than what is proposed for federal employees? In 2006 for instance, it appeared that federal employees might see a 2.7% pay raise, but a defense bill was passed that gave the military a 2.2% pay increase. In the end, an executive order was issued that gave federal employees a 2.2% pay increase.
There are other forces that are likely to come into play in the pay raise debate too. Mike Causey noted in a recent article that an “informal but influential coalition” exists that has successfully worked for higher pay increases for federal employees in the past. This group includes individuals such as Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Jim Moran (D-VA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Frank Wolf (R-VA) and other Senators and Congressmen who represent districts with high concentrations of federal workers, and who would therefore presumably want to see a larger pay raise in 2013 for their constituents.
On the other hand, there has been a strong push from some in Congress to make cuts to the federal workforce and extend the pay freeze, so there are certainly no guarantees going forward.
So what will the pay raise in 2013 be? Will there even be a raise? That is anybody’s guess at this point, but you can expect more debating and bickering back and forth until the 2013 budget proposal is finalized and approved by Congress.