federal employees

Trump Wants to Freeze Federal Pay Because of ‘Serious Economic Conditions’

Federal employees at FEMA headquarters. Photo: Michael Reynolds - Pool/Getty Images

Federal workers will not be getting a raise next year if President Trump gets his way.

In a letter to Congress on Wednesday, Trump announced plans to cancel raises for the federal government’s civilian employees, including an across-the-board pay raise of 2.1 percent and a 25 percent bump in locality pay. They would both go into effect on January 1. Trump’s preference for the freeze has been known since he released his 2019 budget in February, but he formalized the move this week.

In his letter, Trump writes that he has the authority to scrap planned pay raises if “serious economic conditions” make them “inappropriate.”

“We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the letter says.

Trump’s decision is not quite final. Congress could cancel the move if it sends him a spending bill that includes the raises and he signs it. It’s not yet clear if Trump is willing to veto the bill over the issue. If Congress doesn’t address the raises in its spending bill, then Trump will get his way.

The Senate has already rejected the White House’s calls to nix the raises once, voting this summer to give federal workers a 1.9 percent raise. But the House didn’t include an increase in its own spending bill, setting up a showdown with the Senate over the issue.

Trump’s letter mentions that the locality pay raise, which goes to workers in high-cost areas of the country, would cost the country $25 billion next year. It’s not clear how much the across-the-board raises would cost.

The idea that scraping the raises is necessary to keep the U.S. on good financial footing doesn’t make much sense considering the tax break Republicans pushed through last year. Cutting worker pay after passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut is “a slap in the face to the hardworking men and women who care for our veterans, protect our homeland, and respond to emergencies,” Democratic representative Elijah Cummings wrote on Twitter Thursday.

National Treasury Employees Union president Tony Reardon criticized the move, too, saying the pay freeze shows that the Trump administration “simply does not respect its own workforce.”

Trump Wants to Freeze Federal Worker Pay