Federal employees would see a 2.7% pay raise next year if the pay increase put forth in the White House budget proposal were to ultimately come to pass.
The 2022 White House budget blueprint was released today and contains a section explaining the proposed pay raise for the federal workforce as well as the rationale. It also highlighted some other items that the White House sees as the administration’s biggest achievements to date that have been done to support the federal workforce:
Supporting Career Civil Servants as the Backbone of the Federal Workforce. To help departments and agencies recruit and retain a diverse and inclusive Federal workforce, the Budget ensures more Federal employees are eligible for a $15 per hour wage, and provides funding for a pay increase averaging 2.7 percent across the Federal civilian workforce, in parity with the military pay increase. The President also took steps on his first day in office to protect the health and safety of Federal employees and contractors during the COVID-19 pandemic, including enforcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s science-based guidelines and directing agencies to finalize and implement workplace health and safety plans. The President also made clear that he encourages union organizing and collective bargaining by revoking executive Orders 13836, 13837, and 13839 that made it harder for Federal workers to unionize and bargain. The President’s executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce also directs agencies to bargain over additional subjects of bargaining, so that workers have a greater voice in their working conditions.
For 2021, federal employees got a 1% across the board pay increase.
The Pay Raise Process
The president’s proposed pay raise is the latest step in determining a raise for federal employees next year which will then play out over the remainder of the year. Congress could ultimately override whatever the White House proposes under the law.
Bills have already been introduced in Congress proposing that the 2022 federal employee pay raise be 3.2%. The latest one came in March from Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).
There are years in which Congress will pass legislation that contains an annual federal pay increase. There are also years in which Congress does not pass legislation addressing a pay raise. If and when Congress passes legislation stipulating a pay raise for the federal workforce, it is usually done through a general appropriations bill.
When federal appropriations bills do not address a pay raise, federal pay adjustments are governed by the Federal Employees’ Pay Comparability Act of 1990 (FEPCA) but that legislation is not necessarily the final say either.
This is because the president can, and usually does, propose an alternative pay raise that ignores the FEPCA formula. If the president determines that “because of national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,” a pay adjustment would be inappropriate based on FEPCA, he can propose a different figure. This normally happens if Congress has not taken its own actions.
So, while the White House’s proposed pay raise is an important step in the process, Congress could later influence the figure through legislation during the year.
Note also that retired federal employees are exempt from the pay raise proposal and process. Any increases they get in their annuity payments come via a cost of living adjustment (COLA) that is determined by a separate process.
For more details on how annual federal employee pay raises are determined, see How is the Annual Federal Employee Pay Raise Determined? What You Need to Know.