Go West Young Fed!

Why do federal workers in Washington, Richmond, Va., New York City, Raleigh-Durham, and Dallas-Ft. Worth make more money – in some cases a whole lot more money – than their counterparts in nearby Annapolis, Norfolk, Albany, Charlotte, and Austinor San Antonio?

How come feds in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Houston take pay cuts when they move to identical-twin jobs in DC? How come feds in Chicago make more than their dopplegangers in Indianapolis or Milwaukee?

One word:

Locality pay!


Okay, two words! Whatever.

The point is that Uncle Sam has a system (which seemed to make sense at the time) whereby federal white collar workers are supposed to be paid salaries that are more or less equal to the going rate for similar jobs in the private sector. Fringe benefits – like health insurance, vacation, sick leave and retirement – are not figured into the mix.

What that means is that each year, in addition to the statutory January federal pay raise for all white collar federal workers (if the President is willing,) those in one of the 30-plus locality pay areas get additional increases that are supposed to reflect private sector salaries for similar jobs. Feds who work in a non-locality area are considered part of RUS (government for “Rest of the United States”.)

The locality pay system hasn’t worked the way it was intended. Hey, this is government, correct?

Presidents Bill Clinton, G.W. Bush and now Barack Obama didn’t recommend full raises for variety of reasons. So, over the years the salary differences – both between government and industry and between locality pay cities and RUS – have grown. Partly because the last three presidents didn’t follow the plan, and partly because official government data show feds are mostly underpaid, even as nonfederal data indicate that feds are mostly overpaid.

Confusing, right? Which may, in the end, be the point.

Interested in why you are paid what you are because of where you are?

Check out the locality pay tables, bearing in mind that whether you are in an area that gets locality pay or whether you are in less fortunate RUS, it doesn’t make any difference this year.

The good news-bad news is that the President’s Pay Agent recently recommended that there not be any locality pay adjustment in 2012. Given the two-year general pay freeze ordered by the White House, that was not the surprise of the century. That means the gap between say Louisville which is part of RUS, and locality pay towns Cincinnati or Dayton, will not get any wider.

Nor will anybody get a pay raise.

To check out the salaries in your home town, and compare them with less (or more) fortunate colleagues, click here.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

An earlier NUF on the largest tree in the world covering nearly two acres of ground prompted this response:

    “Propagating bad information does not make it true (regardless of source). Someone may believe it. California Redwoods particularly Sequoias are much taller and older than the cashew. Aspen groves are considered linked (colonial) and cover the most acreage. Banyan trees (equally colonial) equally old have a larger spacial coverage than the cashew. Dracaena draco (Canary Islands), Baobab trees (Africa), and the Tree of Life (Bahrain) are far more interesting. It’s similar to saying Mt Everest is the tallest mountain (highest point on Earth and above sea level-yes). Tallest mountain base to top (on land, Mt. McKinley) otherwise Mauna Kea in Hawaii (on Earth). Olympus Mons (on Mars) is the tallest mountain known in our Solar System. Largest ‘cashew’ tree would have been correct for the factoid presented May 24th. Respectfully,” Gregory @ NOAA

Thanks Gregory! I shot for Nearly Useless and slid all the way into The Completely Zone. We’ll try again tomorrow.


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