Joe Neguse wants to give BLM, Forest Service employees, a raise

U.S. Representative Joe Neguse speaks at the dedication of Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument on October 12, 2022. Neguse was the ranking member of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands at the time.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily Archive

When Rep. Joe Neguse’s office recently received an inquiry into employee wages from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the issues raised by that constituent echoed similar sentiments Neguse has heard in his district.

Among federal workers, of which there are many in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, wages are too low and turnover is too high, Neguse said. The outcome could be disastrous for the communities in his district, which includes most of Eagle County and is nearly 60% public lands.

Neguse specifically referenced the U.S. Forest Service and the White River National Forest, which includes 11 ski areas, 10 peaks over 13,000 feet and eight wilderness areas. Voters in the district have raised concerns about worker wages in the White River National Forest in recent years, and Neguse is now openly calling for higher wages among workers there, sharing the frustrations expressed by local labor agencies.

In the White River district, “job candidates decline more than half of all vacancies in Forest-wide, with candidates citing cost of living and/or housing in almost all cases,” Neguse wrote in a letter dated May 29 was sent to the district director. American Human Resources Management Agency. “Our federal employees, at every agency and level, are the backbone of our government. It is imperative that we can fully staff our agencies with qualified employees who are able to competently carry out their missions and serve the American people.”

In 2018, when Neguse campaigned to fill the seat vacated by Gov. Jared Polis, he said his priorities were “protecting our valuable public lands, fighting for a living wage and affordable housing.”

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Neguse went on to become chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and when he was elected to the position in 2021, he said his priorities included “making historic investments in the natural resource base.”

In 2023, the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands was renamed the Subcommittee on Federal Lands, and Neguse was chosen by his colleagues on the Commission on Natural Resources to serve as ranking member. of that subcommittee.

Neguse unveiled yet another policy plan and again identified “making historic investments in the natural resources of the workforce” as one of the priorities in that plan.

A year and a half later, Neguse is now the assistant Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, trying to deliver on some of those policy promises. So when a constituent reached out with a question about pay for U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs employees, it struck a chord with the representative, going back to his very first campaign for office.

In 2018, as the Republican-controlled 115th Congress ushered in Trump-era policies that frustrated Democrats, Neguse was asked by The Denver Post if there was anything at all he could agree with if he left that government.

“I agree with some of the pieces of legislation the administration has signed to protect veterans and strengthen the VA,” Neguse said. “Specifically, I support the VALOR Act (which makes it easier for programs that help veterans find jobs to register) and the Jobs for Our Heroes Act (which makes it easier for veterans to obtain commercial trucking permits to fill the national truck shortage). ”

Because constituent concerns from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs echoed similar sentiments Neguse had heard in his district, he decided in May it was time to write a letter to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.