The White House will propose a 0.5 percent pay increase for civilian federal employees as part of its 2013 budget proposal, according to two senior administration officials familiar with the plans.
The modest cost of living increase in federal compensation would be the first pay jump for federal workers since before President Obama ordered a two-year freeze in late 2010.
The proposal, which requires congressional approval, differs from Republican plans supported by lawmakers and presidential candidates that would freeze federal compensation for at least one more year. In recent weeks, GOP lawmakers have called for extending the pay freeze as a way to pay for a payroll tax extension.
But, “a permanent pay freeze is not an acceptable policy,” one of the senior administration officials said Friday. “While modest, a .5 percent increase reflects the belt-tightening we must do in these difficult times.”
This is belt-tightening? First, let's note a couple of things. One, the pay freeze didn't really affect most federal workers:
President Obama spoke of the need for sacrifice last week when he announced a two-year pay freeze for federal employees.
But feds won't be too terribly deprived in 2011 and 2012. Despite the freeze, some 1.1 million employees will receive more than $2.5 billion in raises during that period.
Second, the average federal worker makes double what the average private sector worker makes and their pay advantage is growing:
Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data are the latest available.
The federal compensation advantage has grown from $30,415 in 2000 to $61,998 last year.
This state of affairs is appalling. Of course, it's easy politics for Obama. If he gets the pay increase, Obama helps buy the votes of two million federal workers. If it proves a nonstarter with Congress, he can blame it on the "obstructionist" GOP and tell the federal employee unions he's fighting for them. Meanwhile, taxpayers take it on the chin.