The 32 top-dollar cities for feds

Tuesday - 3/27/2012, 2:00am EDT

Good news, not so hot news on the pay front for white collar feds in New York, New Mexico, California, North Carolina and Pennsylvania and Maine.

The bad news is that six cities in those states that applied to be included in the federal locality pay program were rejected. Currently there are 30-plus locality pay sites — from D.C. and L.A. to smaller places, like Huntsville, Ala., — who get locality pay adjustments along with each regular January pay raise. Locations outside of the locality pay program are a single site known as RUS, for Rest of the U.S. Feds in New York City and Houston make more than feds in Utica and Austin.

Move from a job in Louisville to a federal agency in Long Island, you get a raise. Move from Philadelphia to the same job in Scranton, your pay is adjusted.

The not so-good-but-not-all-that bad news is that being denied locality pay status is pretty much a moot point in an era when federal pay is frozen. Workers didn't get their normal January raises last year or this year because of a White House-imposed pay freeze. Now, Congress is working on legislation that would extend that freeze at least another year (until January, 2014) and maybe longer.

The White House signaled that feds had been out in the cold long enough when the president proposed a modest 0.5 percent increase for January of 2013. But if Congress decides to block that raise, it is doubtful that the president would make it an issue in an election year where the economy and unemployment are major issues.

So which cities won't be joining the exclusive locality pay club in the foreseeable future. They are: Albany, N.Y.; Albuquerque, N.M; Bakersfield, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Harrisburg, Penn.

The Federal Salary Council, which proposed moving the six cities out of RUS and into their own locality zones, will probably make the same recommendation again. Feds who climb out of RUS and into their own locality raise will — when and if pay raises resume — like get fairly substantial catchup raises. That's what happened to feds in Buffalo and Raleigh-Durham when they joined the locality club.

So how much is having your own locality pay group worth? To personalize the issue, check out the pay differentials between cities like Houston, San Francisco-San Jose and Los Angeles compared to what folks in other cities (like yours) make. Locality pay is counted toward retirement. Higher salary means your government-match TSP contribution is worth more, as is your life insurance.

For the city-by-city differentials, click here. If you live and work in RUS, prepare to be depressed.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

For everything you ever wanted to know about ... "natural gas," believe it or not, there's been a study on it: "Toward a social psychology of flatulence: The interpersonal regulation of natural gas," published in 1980 in Psychology: A Quarterly Journal of Human Behavior.


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