Trump proposes 1% federal pay rise as US budget published

By on 11/02/2020 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The White House submitted its 2021 budget proposal to Congress on Monday, along with plans for a 1% civil service pay rise. (Image by Jonathan Cutrer via Flickr).

President Trump has submitted a plan to Congress for all federal workers to receive a 1% pay rise, effective from 1 January 2021.

While this is an improvement on the pay freeze championed by Trump in previous years, the figure is significantly lower than the 1.9% and 3.1% pay increases that were eventually agreed in 2019 and 2020. Inflation was running at 2.3% in the US in the year to December 2019, according to data published in January by the Labor Department.

Trump cited “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,” as his reason for proposing federal pay should be capped at 1%, despite recently declaring “our economy is the best it has ever been.”

The pay announcement came out on Monday, the same day officials from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the proposed budget for fiscal 2021.

Winners and losers

Trump’s final budget proposal before he faces the presidential election later this year lays out plans to increase federal spending on defence, while slashing budgets for environmental protection and social security programmes.

Agencies hit hardest would be the Environmental Protection Agency, which would see a 26.5% funding reduction and 50 environmental programmes cancelled; the Interior Department, responsible for managing natural resources and cultural heritage, with a 16% cut; and Housing and Urban Development, with a proposed reduction of 15.2%.

The documents also recommend that State Department and international aid programmes are cut by nearly 8%.

The Commerce Department, whose responsibilities include collecting census data, monitoring the weather and issuing patents, would suffer the biggest budget cut, at 37% ­– though much of the fall is explained by the loss of additional funds allocated to administer the 2020 census.

At the other end of the scale, agencies that would receive a funding boost include NASA, up 12%; the Veterans Affairs Department, up by 13.3%; the National Nuclear Security Administration, with a 19% increase; and the Homeland Security Department, up 3.4%.

Building walls, cutting welfare

The president is also requesting $2 billion towards his US/Mexico border wall in the $4.8 trillion budget.

Measures to reduce welfare spending include cutting $1 trillion dollars from Medicaid, the health programme for the poor and disabled; reforming some aspects of Medicare; and introducing new work requirements for people in need of food stamps, Medicaid and federal housing assistance, as well as tightening up eligibility for federal disability claimants, the New York Times reported.

Both the pay raise and the 2021 budget proposal will now be considered by Congress for approval. On the basis of previous years, it appears unlikely that either will get through without significant changes.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.


  1. ed prince says:

    Which is it Mr Trump:
    Trump cited “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,” as his reason for proposing federal pay should be capped at 1%, despite recently declaring “our economy is the best it has ever been.”
    Managed to squeak a 1% rise in the election before going back to pay freezes if re-elected I suppose. If the economy is “best ever” then surely a raise of 1% above inflation would be more realistic?

  2. Myron Daldrup says:

    Agreed that Trump can’t say it’s due to a ‘national emergency’ to cut federal employee benefits and the budgets of regulatory agencies (Ones to which he has shown displeasure prior to his election.), and then spend millions of dollars on his own projects and recreation.
    As for the Federal pay raise, I believe it to be a ‘bait-n-switch’ practice that has become common with this administration. Something not mentioned in the article above is that Trump has other plans for Federal employees. This includes taking away resources from Federal unions who already have less recourse than the private sector. It also includes the elimination of cost of living allowance (COLA) for retirees. This last one would mean that, over time, retirees’ benefits do less to help them maintain their lives. I see little benefit to this as Federal retirement benefits were greatly reduced with the introduction of FERS and TSP decades ago. COLAs on FERS payments are much less than ones for the previous CSRS plan.
    Is this really the administration’s way to save money or the first step to get out of the Federal retirement business completely?

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