The US can’t afford to give its civilian workforce their planned raises, Donald Trump said today in a letter to Congress—so he’s cancelling them.
“I have determined that for 2019, both across‑the‑board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero,” the letter reads. It adds, perhaps optimistically, “these alternative pay plan decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well‑qualified Federal workforce.”
The US federal government is the country’s largest employer, with some 1.9 million civilian employees, nearly 700,000 of whom work for the Department of Defense. Those employees were slated to receive a “2.1 percent across-the-board increase” in 2019, Trump’s letter notes, about on pace with inflation estimates. In addition, “locality pay increases” that averaged 25.70% were expected to go into effect in January of 2019, Trump said, which would have cost $25 billion.
“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” Trump wrote. Congress ultimately has authority over federal employees’ pay, and could add an increase to the federal payroll budget in the next spending bill this fall.
The Trump tax cuts that passed last year eliminated some $1.5 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade, mostly by cutting taxes on America’s wealthiest families (including Trump’s own) and big corporations. Civilian federal employees didn’t reap much of the tax cut benefits—these employees make an average of $85,000 a year, not counting postal jobs.
Republicans and Democrats alike criticized the move to cancel pay raises, including this former Republicans Abroad chairman:
(Comstock is running as a Republican for a Congressional seat in Virginia, where many US federal employees live).
The Trump administration is managing the government so poorly that the work environment has become toxic, employees told Quartz earlier this year. Resources are allocated poorly, decisions made erratically, and top jobs still not filled at some agencies almost two years after the presidential election. More than 23,000 federal employees left their jobs during the first nine months of 2017, a 42% increase from departures over the same period during Obama’s first year in office.