By James D. Agresti
February 15, 2019
The spending bill just passed by Congress—which President Trump says he will sign—grants an across-the-board pay raise of 1.9% to federal civilian employees. This will cost taxpayers about $3.7 billion in 2019 and $35 billion over the next 10 years.
According to data from the White House Office of Management & Budget, federal civilian non-postal employees were slated to earn about $196 billion in salaries and $85 billion in benefits during 2019. Hence, the 1.9% increase in their salaries will cost taxpayers about $3.7 billion in 2019.
The salary increase also establishes a new baseline going forward. Over 10 years—the standard timeframe for Congressional Budget Office analyses—a 1.9% raise will cost taxpayers roughly $35 billion. For a point of comparison, this is 25 times more than the $1.375 billion that the bill provides for new border barriers.
The $35 billion estimate assumes that the federal workforce doesn’t grow, and it discounts the value of their raise for inflation. The Consumer Price Index rose by 1.9% in 2018, so this increase merely keeps pace with inflation.
However, most federal employees are paid substantially more than their counterparts in the private sector. A 2017 Congressional Budget Office study found that federal civilian, non-postal employees receive an average of 17% more total compensation than comparable private sector workers.
At least five other recent studies that account for workers’ benefits, education, experience, and skills have found that federal employees enjoy a significant advantage in compensation over similar private-sector workers.
In 2017, federal, state and local governments spent $1.94 trillion on employee compensation. This amounts to an average of $15,388 from every household in the United States.
The spending bill passed the House of Representatives with 82% of Democrats voting for it and 66% of Republicans voting against it. It passed the Senate with 89% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans voting for it.