Congressman Seeking Big Locality Pay Bump for Modesto, CA

One Congressman is pushing to expand the current boundaries of the highest paying locality area in the country.

One Congressman is pushing to dramatically increase the locality pay for federal employees in the Modesto, CA area.

Congressman Josh Harder (D-CA) introduced legislation that he says would raise the salaries for Department of Veterans Affairs employees at the Modesto VA clinic who are under the General Schedule.

His bill, the Fair Pay for Modesto VA Act (H.R. 4210) would make Stanislaus County, CA part of the San Francisco locality pay area.

In explaining the justification for the legislation, Harder notes that the nearby VA clinic in Stockton, CA is located under the San Francisco locality pay scale which currently stands at 40.35% whereas Modesto, CA is in the “rest of U.S.” locality pay area which is 15.67% in 2019.

Harder says this is unfair, saying in a statement, “It’s unacceptable that after returning from serving our country and putting their lives on the line, our veterans are experiencing huge wait times to see a doctor. This bill evens the playing field and says that our veterans deserve just as good of care as those who live in San Francisco or Stockton.”

Harder says that doctor and nurse shortages at the Modesto VA clinic are arising because of the lower pay for the employees who work there which is leading to longer wait times for veterans. He said that many federal employees from his district commute to the Bay Area each day which “integrates the work and economy of Stanislaus County further into San Francisco’s labor market.” In short, Harder says that medical practitioners at the Modesto VA clinic should be paid at the same rate as employees at the Stockton and San Francisco VA clinics.

It is doubtful that a standalone bill will gain much traction since locality pay is currently determined outside of the traditional legislative process. The Federal Salary Council, in conjunction with the President’s Pay Agent, are the bodies that make determinations about adding to existing locality pay areas.

With that in mind, Harder also sent a letter to Chairman Ron Sanders of the Federal Salary Council petitioning for expansion of the San Francisco locality pay area into the Modesto region. A copy of the letter is included below.

Dear Mr. Sanders,

Thank you for your overseeing the Federal Salary Council. I appreciate the opportunity to work together to support our federal employees. I write today to formally request that Stanislaus County be added to the San Francisco-San Jose General Schedule locality and that this addition be placed on the Council’s agenda for consideration.

As the Congressman for California’s 10th Congressional District, I represent part of San Joaquin County and all of Stanislaus County. The federal employees in my district are hard-working members of our community contributing to our local economy. The constituents in my district, particularly from Stanislaus County are at a disadvantage when it comes to competitive pay in the region.

For example, the local Veterans Administration (VA) clinic in Stockton, California, is included in the same pay scale as San Francisco, while the local VA clinic in Modesto, California, is not included. These two cities are approximately thirty miles apart; however, the regional pay disparity impacts are very different for the federal employees working in these two facilities.

With a growing population that commutes to the Bay Area for work every day, an average of four hours round-trip, the percentage of these “super commuters” is increasing year-after-year in Stanislaus County. This integrates the work and economy of Stanislaus County further into San Francisco’s labor market. Beginning a proper analysis on the qualifications of Stanislaus County to be included in the San Francisco-San Jose locality is a first step in getting competitive wages for many of my constituents. I also request your thoughtful consideration of adding Stanislaus County to the San Francisco-San Jose General Schedule locality.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your response.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.