Senior political officials barred from pay increases through end of 2017

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a memo last week highlighting provisions in the  Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law May 5, extending the pay freeze for certain senior political officials through the end of the 2017 calendar year.

Under this new extension, the pay freeze could continue through Jan. 6, 2018, or the last day of the traditional biweekly payroll schedule for 2017.

The extension maintains the pay rates for covered political officials at 2013 levels, according to the OMB memo.

Federal positions affected by the pay freeze include those serving in an appointed position or are paid at the fixed rate of an Executive Schedule (EX) employee, a chief of mission or ambassador at large, non-career appointee in the Senior Executive Service (SES) or a limited term appointee or temporary emergency employee in the SES  paid at or above the $161,900 EX rate.

Other employees appointed to office that are paid at or above that rate are also subject to the freeze. These employees are barred from receiving pay increases until the freeze is lifted, including those recently appointed to a covered position.

“The pay freeze applies based on when pay is earned, not when it is paid. A pay increase is considered to be ‘received’ when it takes effect, not when it is reflected in a salary payment,” documents attached to the memo said. “Congress ensured that career and other nonpolitical appointees whose pay is linked to the official statutory salary rates for the Executive Schedule are not adversely affected.”

Not all bad news

Those in covered roles paid below the EX rate are still eligible to receive salary increases up to that rate, the memo said.

In conjunction with dozens of other exceptions, the pay freeze does not apply to General Schedule employees, Foreign Service employees, employees in another pay system or to non-careeer SES appointees and certain other political appointees paid below the EX level.

One narrow statutory exception exists. The documents said: “The law continues to provide an exception to allow a covered senior political appointee to receive a pay increase upon movement to a different covered position with higher-level duties and a pre-established higher level or range of pay.” The only rule is that the pay must be equal to December 2013 levels.

“If the pay freeze provision is not extended to calendar year 2018, EX officials will be entitled to the official statutory EX rate on January 7, 2018, which will reflect the January 2014 – January 2018 increases,” the documents said.