D.C. Government Salaries Are Crossing the Border
Three residency requirement bills for D.C. government workers were the subject of a public hearing Wednesday.
Three possible solutions to the outflow of money caused by over half the salaries of D.C. government workers leaving the District at the end of the day were brought before the public in a D.C. Committee on Government Operations hearing Wednesday afternoon.
“No one is suggesting that there is going to be an overnight solution to what we are working on,” said Councilmember Muriel Bowser, Chair of D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations, “But we need to figure out what’s going on in our hiring system.”
The committee proposed three residency requirements bills as answers of “how to increase the number of employees of the District who live in the District,” said Bowser. However, D.C. officials expressed their concerns that the bills will make D.C. less appealing to future employees in a “spirited discussion,” said Bowser.
The Condition of Employment Act of 2011
The most disputed bill at Wednesday’s hearing was The Condition of Employment Act of 2011, which would require D.C. government workers that reside outside of D.C. to give 4 percent of their salaries to D.C.
“I…find this type of legislation exasperating,” said Kristopher Baumann, Chairman of D.C. Police Union. “Why would we as a government take our frustrations out and destabilize and demoralize our workforce.”
Bauman said the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has had to cut almost 400 officers because the department had not received a funding increase in 5 years. Staffing could drop even more if the 1,500 police eligible to retire this year do so.
Baumann said this is not the time to “penalize” his workers. He said The Condition of Employment Act “strangles our ability to recruit,” and worries the bill will scare away future workers even if it does not pass.
Shawn Stokes, Director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources, agrees that the 4 percent salary charge would “deter” highly-qualified individuals that live outside of the District to apply for D.C. government jobs.
“You have to understand what this does,” said Baumann. “We are trying to compete to get the best and brightest…across the border.”
The committee’s concern is seeing salaries of 17,783 of D.C. government workers going “across the border” during the evening rush hour each day.
Stokes said the D.C. government holds 30,000 jobs, but D.C. residents fill only 42 percent, less than half, of the positions.
Bowser said it is “important to circulate D.C. dollars in the District of Columbia,” noting an already unstable D.C. budget.
Geo T. Johnson, the D.C. area Director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees called the 4 percent charge a tax.
“It’s not going to fly,” said Johnson. “We won’t stand for this.”
Councilmember Yvette Alexander said the 4 percent charge to non-District residents is not a commuter tax but a “choice” – a career choice.
The District Domicile Requirement Amendment Act of 2011
The District Domicile Requirement Amendment would require all D.C. government workers making a salary of a level 12 or higher Career Service worker to be a D.C. resident within 180 days of hire. The residency would have to be maintained for 7 years.
The question of how workers’ residency would be audited in order to enforce this law was raised in the hearing.
Stokes said residencies of Executive Service and Excepted Service workers are already being audited by a computer database. She explained that an employee’s information is entered into the database “on the date of hire,” and checkpoint notifications come up as the 180 day grace-period runs out. The Human Resource Department can then check in with workers’ place of residence.
Executive Service and Accepted Service officials are already required to live in D.C. These government officials are first and second in command in their department.
“You want to run this city – you have to live here,” stated Bowser. She said “workers who are closer to the people that they are serving” are more understanding of those they serve.
The Jobs for D.C. Residents Amendment Act of 2011
The proposed Jobs for D.C. Residents Amendment Act of 2011 would grant non-District residents the right to work in D.C. government if they were certified by the their department’s subordinate agency head, independent agency head and the D.C. Mayor. This Amendment was briefly mentioned in the hearing.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’s Johnson asked the question that everyone seemed to be dancing around.
“Why aren’t District Residents able to fill District jobs?” he asked Bowser.
That’s the question,” said Bowser.