In a letter addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan, President Donald Trump announced he is canceling a pay raise that most civilian federal employees were due to receive in January. The president cited budgetary constraints.
“Under current law, locality pay increases averaging 25.70 percent, costing $25 billion, would go into effect in January 2019, in addition to a 2.01 percent across-the-board increase for the base General Schedule. We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the president’s letter read in part.
The president added that he’s determined that for 2019 “both across-the-board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero.”
NEWS: President Trump says he's eliminating a pay raise for civilian federal employees slated for 2019 in order to "put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course." pic.twitter.com/7wNAgoMdKX
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) August 30, 2018
The president’s critics say his reasons for the cancellation are disingenuous. Bloomberg reporter Sahil Kapur noted that, by contrast, the president’s tax plan, per a report from the Congressional Budget Office, is projected to cost the Treasury “an average of $190 billion each year for the next decade.”
The president estimates that the 2019 federal employee pay raise he's scrapping would've cost $25 billion.
For context, his tax law is projected by CBO to cost the Treasury an average of $190 billion each year for the next decade.
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) August 30, 2018
Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) criticized the move, saying that “hard-working federal employees” do more the United States than billionaires who benefit from enormous tax cuts.
To the hard-working federal employees Trump just screwed by cutting pay — the folks who run our parks, protect our communities, & serve our veterans: YOU MATTER. If billionaires can get tax cuts, you should get a COLA. You work hard for America & that should add up to something.
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) August 30, 2018
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also weighed in and wondered how much the president benefited from his own tax proposal.
Trump decides no raises for federal employees. What about your trillion dollar tax cut for corporations and your fat cat friends – you gave them a raise. How much did Trump get in that tax cut? Trump cancels pay raises for federal employeeshttps://t.co/PAcjfS2OVW
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) August 30, 2018
The president was also heavily criticized by progressive military advocacy organization VoteVets. In a statement, Will Fischer, an Iraq War veteran and VoteVet’s Director of Government Outreach, called the move “simply obscene.”
“Our hard-working veterans sacrificed for this country, and at a time when wages are stagnant and inflation is on the horizon, it is simply cruel to cancel that so many of these veterans in the workforce were depending on,” he said.
“It is simply obscene that the same person who gave away massive amounts of money to corporations and billionaires in a tax scam now is crying that we don’t have enough money for pay raises for the Federal workforce – over 30 percent of which is made up of veterans.” pic.twitter.com/IR5ohkbjRf
— VoteVets (@votevets) August 30, 2018
Jordan Uhl, the political commentator and host of the podcast “Rust Belt to Beltway,” pointed out that the decision to cancel a federal pay raise is an audacious one, particularly for a president who has taken so many vacations that the Secret Service is concerned it will run out of money.
Trump is burning through millions in taxpayer dollars on personal vacations and has the audacity to suggest that federal workers don’t need pay raises so we can balance the budget. pic.twitter.com/HEhsqoyeyk
— jordan (@JordanUhl) August 30, 2018
In May, the Trump administration proposed $143.5 billion in cuts to federal employee compensation, which included a significant decrease in retirement funding. The president also signed executive orders which made it easier to fire civilian employees and cut down on union activity. On Saturday, a federal judge invalidated many of the provisions of those executive orders.
There has already been concern that Trump’s decision could imperil the re-election of Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA), whose district is home to tens of thousands of government employees. Comstock has not commented on the announcement.
There was a three-year pay freeze from 2011 through 2013 under President Barack Obama, which Congress authorized. Obama attempted to end the freeze in 2012 through an executive order but lawmakers overturned it through legislation and the president signed. Lawmakers had extended the freeze to avoid a government shutdown.
The president has often claimed that he and his administration will reduce the federal deficit. However, his policies have proven to have the opposite effect.