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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

New federal bill includes a provision to maintain a wildland firefighter pay raise

This weekend’s passage of a short-term federal spending bill includes a provision maintaining a wildland firefighter pay raise, at least until mid-November.

Thousands of federal wildland firefighters had a lot of money on the line this weekend.

The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included a provision temporarily increasing their salary by $20,000 or 50% of their base pay, whichever was smaller.

However, the $600-million funding for that bump was set to expire this past Sunday. That deadline became known as the pay cliff because the stakes are so high.

The union representing federal wildland firefighters warns that unless those raises are made permanent, firefighters will quit in droves as they seek better pay and working conditions with state and local fire agencies.

A 2022 Government Accountability Office report found low pay is one of several barriers to wildland firefighter recruitment and retention.

Congress this weekend narrowly averted a government shutdown and firefighter pay will continue at its current rate at least through the middle of next month.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at
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