Federal Employees Hit Hard by Trump’s Budget, Key GOP Senator Says

Pay freeze and other cost-cutters ‘hurts’ appeal of working for government, Lankford says

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., questioned a number of key measures in President Donald Trump's 2019 budget proposal that would affect federal employment. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A key GOP senator appears poised to scrap President Donald Trump’s request to freeze federal employees’ pay in fiscal year 2019, one of many cost-cutting measures for federal agencies the president presented in his budget proposal that lawmakers have pushed back on.

“I don’t think that gains us anything,” Sen. James Lankford said of Trump’s pay freeze proposal, Government Executive reported. “I think it hurts us in recruitment.”

The Oklahoma Republican chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s federal management panel that is responsible for oversight of the federal work force.

Agencies should instead cut wasteful spending in areas of their operations unrelated to employment, Lankford signaled.

“Finding greater efficiencies would allow us to be able to compensate quality employees and retain good people, but also have the opportunity to have more money to invest,” he said.

The pay freeze is one of many unpopular suggestions Trump delivered in his budget proposal that could harm the appeal of federal employment, lawmakers have said. The president proposed that federal employees contribute more toward their pensions. Those who retire early would be ineligible for a Social Security supplement under Trump’s plan. He also wants to scrap cost-of-living adjustments for most retirees’ annuities, cut general returns from the Thrift Savings Plan, slash paid time off, and have employees pay a bigger slice of their health insurance premiums.

Though Trump’s proposal would kick a severe dent in the federal employee benefits program, the White House said it was the first step in a plan to run the federal government on a pay-for-performance model.

The sweetener: a proposed $1 billion interagency bonuses fund to distribute to the highest-performing employees. That fund would “replace the across-the-board pay raise that provides federal employees with increases irrespective of performance with targeted pay incentives to reward and retain high performers and those with the most essential skills,” the White House said.

That part of Trump’s budget plan is also unlikely to make its way back to the Oval Office on an appropriations bill, experts have said.

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