PORT ORCHARD — U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, the 6th District’s Democratic congressman, criticized President Donald Trump’s decision today — Thursday, Aug. 30 — to cancel a planned 2.1-percent pay increase for civilian federal workers as being disrespectful of “the important work done throughout our country by federal workers.”
In a letter to House and Senate leaders today, Trump called the pay increase “inappropriate” and at odds with his administration’s “efforts to keep the nation on a fiscally sustainable course.” Trump wrote that “Federal budgets cannot sustain such increases.”
The across-the-board 2.1-percent pay increase for federal workers was to take effect in January. A yearly paycheck adjustment based on each worker’s location, known as the locality pay increase, also was due to take effect. The president’s action eliminates both increases from taking place.
“I have determined that for 2019, both across the board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero,” Trump wrote.
The president’s action will affect federal civilian workers in the Puget Sound region, particularly those at the Puget Sound Shipyard and other Kitsap County military locations, as well as Forest Service workers and health care workers at veterans’ medical centers.
Kilmer denounced the decision that comes months after Trump signed a massive tax bill the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said benefited the nation’s highest income households and raises the federal debt by $7.2 trillion this decade.
“The President’s choice today takes money out of the pockets of tens of thousands of people in our region,” the congressman said.
“It robs the folks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard working hard so the U.S. Navy can defend us. It rips off people managing the submarines homeported up the road at Sub Base Bangor, the park rangers guiding millions of visitors through Olympic National Park this holiday weekend, the nurses and doctors at the VA medical centers serving the large group of veterans who live in our region, and the Forest Service workers who literally grow local jobs by prepping timber harvests in our federal forests.”
Trump submitted a 2019 budget proposal earlier this year that included a pay freeze for civilian federal workers. But the Senate passed a bill this summer that included a 1.9-percent raise for federal workers; the House version didn’t include a raise. Congressional negotiators will work on a final measure next month.
According to the president, the locality increase next year would average 25.7 percent and cost the federal government $25 billion. The announcement is just one of a number of decisions the White House has made in an attempt to limit spending on federal employees. In May, he signed executive orders making it easier to fire federal employees and placed limits on public-sector unions. A judge, however, struck down most of those provisions last week.
Kilmer said he remains undeterred by the president’s decision.
“I will fight back as hard as I can against the decision, which is bad for our economy and terrible for the people who serve our country,” he said in a news release.