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As deadline nears, House bill aims to avoid firefighter pay cuts

Wildland firefighters walk across a burned area on a sagebrush fire.
Aaron Kunz
Wildland firefighters walk across a burned area on a sagebrush fire.

A legislative effort to give federal wildland firefighters permanent raises has taken a significant step forward.

Last month, Independent Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema introduced the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act. By a wide margin, it was voted out of committee and on to the full Senate.

This week, a House version of the bill was introduced by Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse, who has also championed a broader reform measure for federal firefighters. Neguse was joined by six co-sponsors – three fellow Democrats and three Republicans.

“I think most of us know that in Washington right now, it's really hard to get bipartisan support for anything,” said Max Alonzo of the National Federation of Federal Employees, which represents the firefighters. “This is one of those things that I believe everybody agrees on or most people agree on. So I'm feeling extremely confident that we're going to get this done before the end of September and before we hit this fiscal cliff.”

The "fiscal cliff" he referred to is when funding for sizable temporary raises runs out at the end of September. But Congress is out on recess, and they’ll return just weeks before the deadline.

“I think everybody understands how tight we're going to be on this,” Alonzo said. “It was good to see how quickly it moved through committee on the Senate side, and I have high hopes that the same thing will happen on the House side and we'll get this done.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Hey everyone! I’m Murphy Woodhouse, Boise State Public Radio’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter.

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