A group of over 60 House Democrats thinks that the Biden administration’s proposed 4.6% pay raise for federal employees in 2023 is insufficient and wants Congress to override the president’s proposed federal pay raise.
These House lawmakers sent a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations asking that they authorize a 5.1% pay increase for federal employees in 2023.
This is in line with the figure that was proposed by the Fair Act, legislation that was introduced earlier this year by Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), one of the Representatives who signed the letter, and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). The bill is a tradition of sorts, as it has been introduced each of the last several years to attempt to secure a higher pay raise than what is usually proposed by the White House.
According to the letter, “the federal government has a history of chronic underinvestment” in federal employees and consequently needs to authorize the higher pay increase for next year.
The letter also cites as evidence the Federal Salary Council’s (FSC) suggestion that federal employees are underpaid by 23%. Obviously, the lawmakers do not think that federal employees should get a 23% pay raise in 2023 since they do not suggest making it this amount, but they do state that “federal employees make an average of 23.1 percent less than their private sector counterparts.”
The Federal Salary Council’s latest recommendation suggested an even higher figure of 26.71% in its 2021 annual report.
While federal employees should probably not be expecting pay raises north of 20% anytime soon, the FSC has had some sway in helping to increase pay for the federal workforce. As FedSmith author Ralph Smith notes in his latest article on the topic:
The reality of the system is that the unions on the FSC are advocates for higher pay for federal employees. Proposals that stand in the way of a recommendation for higher pay for more federal employees are usually not adopted. That is not surprising. Advocating for higher pay and more benefits for bargaining unit members is what unions do. The process does not lead to establishing credibility with Congress or the President’s Pay Agent.
Nevertheless, over time the FSC has been successful in creating many new locality pay areas and also adding more areas to existing locality pay areas. In effect, the system has resulted in higher pay for many federal employees.
The House lawmakers also said that authorizing the higher pay raise for 2023 is a matter of fairness and keeping the government competitive in its hiring practices. The letter adds, “…federal employees, like other Americans, live paycheck to paycheck with nearly 600,000 federal employees making less than $60,000 per year.”
What About Inflation?
What is not mentioned in the letter is that inflation has been rising rapidly so far in 2022. A lot of our readers say that they should get a much higher pay raise in 2023 because of inflation.
While this is certainly understandable, the determination of the annual federal pay raise is subject to a political process, so inflation could indirectly impact the pay raise in the sense that politicians seeking to be reelected next year may vie for a higher pay raise to garner support, especially if they have a lot of federal employees living in their Congressional districts.
What About Inflation and Locality Pay?
Another comment we often see is that federal employees will feel that the amount of locality pay they receive in the area in which they live is too low due to either inflation or the cost of living in that city or region.
However, the cost of living in an area is technically not a factor in determining the rate of locality pay for a particular region. As FedSmith author Ralph Smith notes in his article Using the Locality Pay System to Your Financial Advantage:
Locality pay raises are not based on the cost of living in an area. Instead, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conducts locality pay surveys in geographic areas designated by the President’s Pay Agent as locality pay areas. The survey data show non-Federal salaries (including State and local) at distinct levels of work. From these data, the salary for each locality is calculated for the coming year.
What Will the 2023 Federal Pay Raise Be?
All of this is part of the usual political process that goes with the long road to establishing an annual pay raise for the federal workforce.
As of right now, it looks more likely that federal employees will get a 4.6% pay raise in 2023 since that is what the White House wants, and the president gets the final say unless Congress intervenes. However, Congress could override President Biden on the issue with legislation, and that is obviously what these lawmakers in the House want.
Because 2022 is an election year, supporting or speaking out against a bigger federal pay raise may occur in some Congressional districts. Current members of Congress obviously want to be reelected, and those with a large federal presence will be more likely to favor a larger pay raise.
As more news unfolds regarding next year’s pay raise, we will continue to keep our readers apprised of the new developments.
Letter from House Democrats Asking for 5.1% 2023 Federal Pay Raise
The full text of the letter is included below.
April 26, 2022
Dear Chairwoman DeLauro, Ranking Member Granger, Chairman Quigley, and Ranking Member Womack:
As you prepare to advance the FY2023 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you include a 5.1 percent pay raise for federal employees for calendar year 2023. The increase is in line with the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act (H.R. 6398), which was introduced in the House of Representatives and has the support of 31 co-sponsors.
Throughout the pandemic, civil servants performed the essential work of the federal government under the most extraordinary circumstances. Federal government employees risked exposure to COVID-19 to deliver mail, collect census responses, provide healthcare to veterans, distribute lifesaving stimulus benefits, inspect meat and poultry facilities, and help research therapies and vaccines for COVID-19.
Unfortunately, the federal government has a history of chronic underinvestment in its most valuable asset: the federal workforce. The Biden Administration has worked to reverse these trends, providing federal employees a 2.7 percent pay raise in 2022 and removing prohibitions the previous administration placed on union operations and resources.
Over the past decade, federal employee pay increases failed to keep pace with rising labor and living costs. Additionally, federal workers weathered multiple pay freezes, hiring freezes, and lost pay as the result of sequestration-related furloughs including two of the longest government shutdowns in U.S. history.
The federal government must remain competitive when hiring the next generation of federal workers. Currently, only 7 percent of the federal workforce is under the age of 30 while the civilian labor force enjoys nearly three times that number. In 2020, the Federal Salary Council stated that federal employees make an average of 23.1 percent less than their private sector counterparts. With almost a third of the federal workforce eligible to retire in five years, we will face a talent crisis if we fail to make basic investments in federal pay that will attract early career talent to federal government service.
Paying our federal workforce a fair wage is also a matter of equity that impacts every community in America. More than 85% of federal workers live outside of the Washington D.C., with 36% of employees living in rural areas. Every congressional district is home to a federal employee. Some of these federal employees, like other Americans, live paycheck to paycheck with nearly 600,000 federal employees making less than $60,000 per year.
Our nation’s dedicated civil servants deserve respect and fair compensation. We respectfully ask that you provide a pay increase of 5.1 percent for all federal employees in the FY2023 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill.
Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Shontel Brown (D-OH), Andre Carson (D-IN), Sean Casten (D-IL), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Danny Davis (D-IL), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Bill Foster (D-IL), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Kai Kahele (D-HI), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Conor Lamb (D-PA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), John Larson (D-CT), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Marie Newman (D-IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Adam Smith (D-WA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), David Trone (D-MD), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), and John Yarmuth (D-KY).