Locality pay tweaks, possible Social Security changes—and more

Locality pay changes would be implemented in time for the 2023 pay raise.

Locality pay changes would be implemented in time for the 2023 pay raise. PonyWang / Getty Images

These news items come as part of a weekly roundup of pay and benefits developments ...

The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation taking aim at two controversial Social Security provisions affecting federal employees and other public servants, although its shape could change before it is passed out of the House.

The committee by voice vote advanced the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 82), introduced by Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., without positively recommending its passage. The bill would repeal two controversial provisions of Social Security: the windfall elimination provision and the government pension offset, two pieces of the retirement program that impact federal employees and other government workers.

The windfall elimination provision reduces the Social Security benefits of retired federal, state and local government employees who worked in private sector jobs in addition to a government position where Social Security is not intended as an element of their retirement income, like the Civil Service Retirement System. And the government pension offset reduces spousal and survivor Social Security benefits in families with retired government workers.

The bill advanced Tuesday has 299 cosponsors, but it’s not the only piece of legislation aimed at reforming provisions reducing the Social Security benefits of government workers. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, has introduced the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (H.R. 5834), which would replace the two provisions with new formulae to calculate Social Security benefits that he says are more fair. That bill has 54 cosponsors.

Those who support Brady’s bill argue that Davis and Spanberger’s bill does not create a fair system; rather, it makes Social Security unfair for the vast majority of beneficiaries who worked only in the private sector. Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Brady both said at Tuesday’s committee meeting that the vote to advance legislation without recommendation is intended to move the issue forward while continuing negotiations on how best to tackle reforming the two rules so that a bill can pass with bipartisan support and hopefully become law before this session of Congress adjourns at the end of this year.

“We are close, but there are still some hurdles to resolve,” Brady said. “There’s no agreement yet, and we know the clock is ticking.”

OPM Finalizes Regional Locality Pay Tweaks for the 2023 Pay Raise

The Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday published proposed rules that would implement a pair of tweaks to the map of General Schedule locality pay areas to implement changes approved by the president’s pay agent late last year.

Last December, the president’s pay agent, which is composed of OPM Director Kiran Ahuja, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, approved recommendations from the Federal Salary Council to add Carroll County, Ill., to the Davenport, Iowa, locality pay area.

In a posting to the Federal Register, OPM announced that it was proposing rules to implement that addition by the end of this year and in time for President Biden’s planned 4.6% average pay raise for 2023, which includes an average 0.5% increase in locality pay.

Additionally, OPM noted that, per the president’s pay agent, Brooks County, Texas, recently met the employment criteria—at least 400 General Schedule federal employees—to be included as part of the Corpus Christi locality pay area. As such, OPM also moved to implement that addition by the end of this year.

The Federal Salary Council, an advisory panel made up of presidential appointees and representatives from federal employee unions, in August recommended a series of new additions to the map of locality pay areas, as well as a reform of the criteria counties must meet to be considered to become part of existing locality pay areas. The president’s pay agent is expected to make a decision on those recommendations later this year.

This piece was published also on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site. 

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