White House wants to change pay for federal workers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House wants to change how more than 1.5 million federal workers are paid, emphasizing performance-based raises instead of the current system that generally increases pay based on tenure.

Senior officials with the Office of Management and Budget said these changes would be proposed as part of President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget plan, to be released Monday.

The officials insisted on anonymity to discuss details that have yet to be made public. The proposal would slow tenure-based increases, generating $10 billion over 10 years for performance-based payments.

The officials said much of the clerical work that has been the domain of the government can be automated, but there is a greater need for information technology workers and cyber security experts. Moving to performance-based pay means some federal workers with poor reviews could be fired, although the officials declined to say what that would mean for a government that employs 2.8 million workers.

The administration is also studying whether it’s better to recruit workers with a defined-contribution retirement plan, rather than a pension plan that supports workers who have decades of service in the federal government.

Some of these changes could require action by Congress, which last significantly updated civil service rules in 1978. The officials didn’t spell out the likelihood of Congress overhauling the civil service during an election year.

The shift to performance-based pay could dramatically change structure and compensation in a federal workforce that has been something of a bulwark against the increase in economic inequality.

Federal employees with a high school diploma or less earn on average 53 percent more than peers with similar education levels in the private sector, according to a 2017 study by the Congressional Budget Office. College graduates earn about 21 percent more than their private-sector counterparts, while people with advanced degrees earn 18 percent less in the government.

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