Washington, D.C. – Alaskan Congressman Don Young voted this afternoon in favor of H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. This bill contained a provision championed by Rep. Young since the original legislation was introduced two years ago, to provide for retirement equity for Federal employees in non-foreign areas outside the Lower 48 and Washington, D.C. Rep. Young worked with House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton to include the language in today’s bill which will replace the cost of living allowances (COLA) for federal employees in Alaska with the locality pay system that has long been in place in the Lower 48.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Rep. Young. “I have been working to enact this into law for the past few years along with my good friend Chairman Abercrombie (D-HI) and we are both happy to see it pass the House today. I am pleased that the Senate followed the House’s lead and allowed for its inclusion in the final Conference Report, since it was not included in the Senate passed bill earlier this year. This is a victory for federal employees in Alaska and I would like to thank all of them who worked alongside us every step of the way, ensuring that this long overdue change to locality pay became a reality.”
The U.S. Government pays a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to white-collar civilian federal employees in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To set the COLA rates, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) surveys the prices of over 300 items, including goods and services, housing, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses, in each of the COLA areas and in Washington, D.C. and they compare these results to arrive at an adjustment for employees. An alternative to COLAs is locality pay which is taxed and incorporated into base salaries. The current locality pay system provides for pay adjustments based on surveys that compare federal and non-federal wages in a particular geographic location (e.g. Alaska and Hawaii). Its goal was to narrow the pay gap but it only included federal employees in the continental United States. Rep. Young has actively worked with Republican leadership, Democrats, and Senate members since 2007 to see this adjustment come to fruition.