President Donald Trump on Monday justified a smaller-than-anticipated proposed pay raise for civilian federal workers by citing “national emergency or serious economic conditions,” despite his frequent statements that the nation’s economy is booming.
Trump proposed that pay raises for civilian federal workers be limited to 1% in 2021 in a bid to “maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course.” He described a pay increase above 1% as “inappropriate.”
“This alternative pay plan decision will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well qualified Federal workforce,” the President wrote.
An across-the-board 2.5% increase for federal workers is slated to take effect in January 2021.
In limiting federal pay raises, Trump cited his statutory authority to adjust pay because of “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,” but the President frequently touts a growing US economy, including a strong growth rate for the gross domestic product and low unemployment.
“In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American Decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We have totally rejected the downsizing,” Trump said at his State of the Union address last week.
“We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never, ever going back.”
In addition, a yearly adjustment of paychecks based on the region of the country where a worker is posted — the “locality pay increase” — is due to take effect, but Trump now proposes that those salaries “remain at their 2020 levels.”
The implications of Trump’s decision on the locality pay increase were not immediately clear. Workers based in more expensive parts of the country are paid higher salaries to compensate for the higher cost of living.
Congress has an opportunity to effectively ignore the President’s proposal if lawmakers pass a spending bill that includes a federal pay raise.
The suggested pay adjustments align with Trump’s larger 2021 budget proposal, which calls for major spending cuts but would not eliminate the federal deficit in the next 10 years.
The $4.8 trillion budget plan essentially serves as a statement of priorities for the President ahead of the 2020 presidential election, but like any budget proposed by the White House, Trump’s 2021 plan must be passed by Congress. And with a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and a GOP-controlled Senate, what ultimately passes may show little resemblance to what the President has proposed.