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Obama to return 5 percent of salary to Treasury

By Josh Lederman

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:22 p.m. HST, Apr 03, 2013

WASHINGTON >> Sharing a bit of budget pain, President Barack Obama will return 5 percent of his salary each month to the Treasury in a show of solidarity with federal workers smarting from government-wide spending cuts.

Obama's decision grew out of a desire to share in the sacrifice that government employees are making, a White House official said Wednesday. Hundreds of thousands of workers could be forced to take unpaid leave — known as furloughs — if Congress does not reach an agreement soon to undo the cuts.

The president is demonstrating that he will be paying a price, too, as the White House warns of dire economic consequences from the $85 billion in cuts that started to hit federal programs last month after Congress failed to stop them. In the weeks since, the administration has faced repeated questions about how the White House itself will be affected. The cancellation of White House tours in particular has drawn mixed reactions.

A 5 percent cut from the president's salary of $400,000 per year amounts to $1,667 per month.

The move will be retroactive to March 1 — the day the cuts started to kick in — and will remain in effect for the rest of fiscal 2013, said the White House official, who was not authorized to discuss the decision publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama reported almost $790,000 in adjusted gross income in 2011, the most recent year for which their tax returns have been made public. That figure was down from the $1.7 million they brought in the year before and the $5.5 million they reported in 2009. About half of the family's income in 2011 came from Obama's salary, with the rest coming from book sales. The Obamas reported more than $172,000 in charitable donations.

Wednesday's notice followed a similar move a day earlier by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who committed to taking a salary cut equal to 14 days' pay — the same level of cut that other Defense Department civilians are being forced to take. As many as 700,000 civilians will have to take one unpaid day off each week for up to 14 weeks in the coming months.

Obama isn't the first president to give up part of his paycheck. Herbert Hoover put his salary in a separate account, then divvied it up, giving part to charity and part to employees he felt were underpaid, according to an interview he gave in 1937. John F. Kennedy donated his presidential salary to various charities, according to Stacey Chandler, an archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

George Washington refused pay during the latter part of his military career, according to researchers at Mount Vernon. He tried to refuse a presidential salary, but Congress required that the position pay $25,000.

Among lawmakers, Sen. Mark Begich, an Alaska Democrat, said Wednesday that he, too, would return part of his income to the Treasury, although he did not specify how much of his $174,000 salary he would give up. Begich said his office started furloughing staffers in mid-March and more than half of his staff will have their pay cut this year.

"This won't solve our spending problem on its own, but I hope it is a reminder to Alaskans that I am willing to make the tough cuts, wherever they may be, to get our spending under control," Begich said.

A number of lawmakers have from time to time taken steps to show they're not immune as the federal government looks to tighten its belt. An aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said McConnell returns a substantial part of his salary to the Treasury every year. The Senate this month adopted by voice vote a symbolic amendment permitting — but not requiring — senators to give 20 percent of their salaries to the Treasury as part of the Democrats' budget resolution. Also in March, as the spending cuts started bearing down, the GOP-controlled House imposed an 8.2 percent reduction on lawmakers' personal office budgets.

The White House, after declining for weeks to provide specifics for how the president's own staff had been affected, said Monday that 480 workers on the budget staff had been notified they may have to take days off without pay.

Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, wouldn't say whether notices have gone out to Obama aides outside the Office of Management and Budget, including senior staff in the West Wing. But he said pay cuts remained a possibility for additional White House employees if a budget deal to undo the cuts isn't reached.

"Everybody at the White House and the broader (executive office) is dealing with the consequences — both, in many cases, in their own personal lives, but in how we work here at the White House," Carney said. He added that the White House also has been trying to cut costs by slowing down hiring, scaling back supply purchases, curtailing staff travel, reducing the use of air cards for mobile Internet access and reviewing contracts to look for savings.

Like lawmakers' pay, Obama's salary is set by law, so he must accept the funds and then write a check to the Treasury for the portion he plans to relinquish. Obama's decision, first reported by The New York Times, won't affect the other perquisites afforded the president, from a mansion staffed with servants to the limousines, helicopters and Boeing 747 jumbo jet at every U.S. president's beck and call. The White House did not say whether Vice President Joe Biden would make a similar gesture.

The 5 percent that Obama will hand back mirrors the 5 percent cut that domestic agencies took when the reductions went into effect. The Pentagon's budget took an 8 percent hit. Every federal agency is grappling with spending cuts, which the White House has warned could affect everything from commercial airline flights to classrooms and meat inspections.

The cuts were written into a 2011 deficit-reduction measure as a trigger to force future action. The idea was that lawmakers, eager to avert the consequences of bluntly slashing $1 trillion over a decade, would have no choice but to come together to find smarter ways to reduce federal spending.

But the two parties were at odds over whether more tax revenues were needed as part of the solution, and an intense campaign by Obama and his Cabinet to illustrate how the cuts could affect critical programs failed to spur an agreement by the March 1 deadline. As the cuts started taking effect, lawmakers turned to other issues, including an increase in the national debt ceiling, and there are no signs that a deal to undo the cuts retroactively will come anytime soon.


Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor and Nancy Benac contributed to this report.

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1local wrote:
how about paying for all of his expenses?
on April 3,2013 | 01:02PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
If he returned the value of all the ski trips, golf dates, Hawaii vacations, junkets to Spain and Bahama for Mama, the total would far far exceed the publicity ploy of a 5% pay cut.
on April 3,2013 | 01:11PM
silvangold wrote:
wow.....never satisfied are we? you know, he REALLY didn't have to give up that mere 5%. He could have bought a hefty diamond necklace for Michelle or the girls or even his favorite secretary. come'on......we gotta move on cuz there ain't a darn thing we can do about it......
on April 3,2013 | 01:37PM
Paulh808 wrote:
Just calling it what it is, just like all of his photo ops all Shibai!
on April 3,2013 | 10:24PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Well I don't understand why a President is even paid at all. Aren't ALL of his expenses covered? There are also the many gifts...
on April 3,2013 | 01:42PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
The king of pandering. The master of populism. Goodness it's just laughable. One big joke. How's about making real cuts instead of something so small, so plainly meant to look good?
on April 3,2013 | 03:18PM
Paloha99 wrote:
You can never win for trying with the Obama or government detractors. Its a sincere and thoughtful gesture yet people find cynicism in that too. Many people in the civilian sector dont fully understand all the sacrifices federal workers make working for the government. People in government work for a much higher purpose than people who work in the civil or private sector. Our military, postal, FAA, etc, work everyday for the safety and functionality of govt. Workers for private firms like Google or Hilton work to increase the bottom line of shareholders. So tell me what is the more noble cause. So when a govt employee like Obama makes a gesture to return part of his salary, and all the govt workers get furloughed...please stop the cynicism and just say thank you.
on April 3,2013 | 03:51PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
Paloha99, govt workers may have a noble reason to serve, but it doesn't mean that private sector workers don't have a noble reason either, or that their product/service offered isn't noble. Is Google not an indispensable part of many (if not most) people's lives? And regardless of all of that, it doesn't mean that this gesture by Obama wasn't made for an underlying purpose. Given what he has done throughout his administration (constantly campaigning instead of governing), it's hardly a stretch to suspect that this latest action nothing but more of the same.
on April 3,2013 | 04:41PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
You do not understand marketing - it clearly was not a sincere or thoughtful gesture. When making over $400k, and ALL of your expenses are covered, a sincere or thoughtful gesture would be to give up more than 75%. Barry will not experience hardship with this 5% marketing/PR ploy - but the rest of the federal workers sure will.
on April 3,2013 | 06:02PM
Dolphin743 wrote:
How nice. The Govt civilians who work for him will get a nice 20% pay cut for most of the rest of the year. And they won't have the book royalties and other significant income to help them. A meaningful cut might have been a reasonable statement. This seems more like giving away the loose change in his pocket...it's more insulting than meaningful.
on April 3,2013 | 04:22PM
Skyler wrote:
x2. Hardly a sacrifice when compared to those who truly will.
on April 3,2013 | 05:47PM
serious wrote:
We forgot the subsidized housing for him, his family and mother-in-law. AND, BO!!!!
on April 4,2013 | 07:16AM
rhs763 wrote:
Methinks ALL government management staff and Senators and Representatives should be doing the same. They have not been doing their jobs all these years. If they can do better in the private sector, they should leave. But executive salaries do not match with executive responsibilities.
on April 3,2013 | 04:22PM
pandadaddy wrote:
He must be tired of being called a hypocrite.
on April 3,2013 | 05:28PM
tsboy wrote:
its a joke. after declared income of almost $8 million from 2008-2011, $1700 a month is a drop in the bucket. why doesn't he kick in the supposedly $78,000 a week it takes to keep the White House open for tours for kids on spring break. and supposedly, the $78,000 was for the salaries of secret service agents guarding the White House. how many agents are guarding the WH, and how much are they getting paid? $78,000? really? it was also reported that those secret service agents were'nt furloughed as originally reported, but assigned somewhere else. so no money was saved. there have been a more than a few people who have volunteered to pay for a week to keep the WH open, yet no response from Obama. but he volunteers to take a $1700 a month pay cut to show the common folk that he can sacrifice like them. like i said, its a joke.
on April 3,2013 | 05:54PM
false wrote:
And he gave the Palestinians 500 Million recently. But no money for WH tours. Obama supporters are truly warped.
on April 3,2013 | 09:12PM
false wrote:
He should give it to his Masters at the Federal Reserve. After all they will be giving him billions more in a few years.
on April 3,2013 | 09:08PM
Bdpapa wrote:
How genorous! He should not take anything at all. Probably better on his taxes, A Hole!
on April 3,2013 | 09:11PM
78R8R wrote:
Not enough, all of congress and the President should not be paid until they deal with the sequester
on April 3,2013 | 09:18PM
jussayin wrote:
What a joke. Obama's net worth is over $12,000,000 not including his salary, etc. Heck his vacation trips to Hawaii cost us several million dollars. He should cut one trip out which would amount to way more than the 5 percent g e s t u r e.
on April 3,2013 | 09:52PM
serious wrote:
Right, and take ONLY one plane on vacations.
on April 4,2013 | 07:18AM
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