U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright’s legislation to grant a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment to 1,809 non-salaried Tobyhanna Army Depot employees and other blue-collar federal workers has been included in the $1.1 trillion appropriations bill that the House is expected to pass today.
“I’m very happy,” Cartwright said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “They told me it could be years before I’d be in a position where something I introduced would become law. I’m excited and gratified for the people it’s going to help.”
In addition to the Tobyhanna workers, the COLA increase also would affect nearly a quarter million other non-salaried federal employees, including those who work at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Plains Township and federal prisons.
Cartwright said those employees haven’t had a raise in four years. President Obama this year approved a 1 percent COLA increase for salaried, federal employees, but he did not have the statutory authority to provide the same increase to all federal workers.
The depot is Northeastern Pennsylvania’s largest employer with 5,300 employees, of which about 25 percent live in Luzerne County. The average annual salary there is $57,092.
“It’s not a huge amount of money,” the congressman said of the increase for non-salaried workers. “But put together, it’s over a million dollars that’s coming to Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
He said he wasn’t shocked his legislation was included in the appropriations bill since he has been pushing hard for it and his bill had nine Republican co-sponsors, including Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who is deputy majority whip and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Legislative Branch Subcommittee.
“I knew Tom had the kind of power to move this along,” Cartwright said.
He said Cole’s district includes military bases — Fort Sill Army Post and Tinker Air Force Base.
The Republican-led House is expected to pass the massive spending bill today, The Associated Press reported.
Its passage by both the House and the Senate would fund the government through October and end the bitter budget battles of last year.