President Proposes 2017 Pay Raise

The White House budget proposal’s call for a 1.6 percent pay raise for January 2017 may keep the figure low enough to stay off the congressional radar screen in the process ahead. That would follow the pattern since 2013 in which Congress allowed the recommendation to take effect by default by not including any language on a raise in its budget outline or in specific appropriations bills that follow. That practice has allowed Congress to avoid affirmatively voting to set a raise. The recommendation does not specify whether the number would be paid entirely across the board, divided as locality pay, or a combination of both; for 2016, the 1.3 percent figure was paid out as 1 percentage point across the board and the remainder divided up, resulting in raises that ranged from about 1.2 to 1.5 percent. Federal unions continue to push for larger amounts, with 5.3 percent being the leading figure suggested. Proposals likely will be introduced in Congress, as they have before in similar situations, reflecting that figure or one close to it. However, even sponsors of larger increases have been reluctant to push hard for a vote out of concern that the move could backfire and result in Congress voting to reduce or even eliminate the White House’s recommended figure.