President Barack Obama speaks in the White House Briefing Room in Washington. He has pledged to return 5 percent of his salary to show his solidarity with
President Barack Obama speaks in the White House Briefing Room in Washington. He has pledged to return 5 percent of his salary to show his solidarity with federal workers hurting from government-wide spending cuts. (Associated Press file)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sharing a bit of budget pain, President Barack Obama will return 5 percent of his salary 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 $20,000.

Obama will return a full $20,000 to the Treasury even though only a few months remain in the fiscal year, which ends in September. He will cut his first check this month, 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.