Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pay raises and public service

Governor Phil Bredesen told reporters for The Tennessean that the reason he approved such ungodly salary increases for members of his cabinet was to keep them in his second administration and, he said, give his successor an "easier time" picking a cabinet of their own. Apparently, Bredesen wants to make career government officials of these people.

Bredesen last week announced the raises that include creating a new top-scale pay grade of $180,000 for key commissioners. That means Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz will earn $32,412 more per year, while Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber will see a $69,336, or 63 percent, hike.

In all, the announced raises for each commissioner and 38 other key officials whose salaries are tied to their bosses' pay make up $930,000 of a $3.1 million pay-raise package for executive branch officials.

The governor called the raises "one of my gifts to the next governor."

Unlike some people, I am not one who thinks that government officials-be they elected or appointed-should never receive a raise. Those who work for the State have families to feed and financial obligations to meet just as much as anyone else. Many of them work hard (whether I might agree with their politics or not) and deserve some kind of a payoff for that service. Expecting a raise is not unreasonable.

There is a different dynamic at work, however, when you receive a political appointment. You serve not only at the Governor's pleasure, but you also serve the people of the State who are paying your salary. When someone works in the private sector, they can expect a raise based on their performance as well as the profits the company is making. Government is not supposed to be in the business of making a profit, but of serving the people the officials in question were elected or appointed to serve.

There are some people who have served admirably in public service at every level of government for many years. While this is truly laudable, we should remember that America was not founded to be a nation of government employees. However long you may have served in government, and in whatever capacity, public service is not meant to be your only career. An important part of life, perhaps, and maybe even a stepping stone to other things-but a person's working life should not end with their public service.

The Tennessee General Assembly recently approved a 3% pay increase for all State employees. I am of the mind that everyone should receive the increase since the legislature approved it, but no one should receive any more than that. When the Governor has just signed into law a series of huge tax increases, and then gives his own staff raises that far exceed the originally mandated increase, where does it appear our tax money is being spent? The money is being appropriated on the Governor's cabinet, instead of by them.



At Wednesday, July 25, 2007 8:45:00 PM, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

In Bredesen speak,
"Keep them in his second administration" means buy their silence and loyalty until he's out of office.

If we (Democrats) can't find someone better than Bredesen in 10, I hope to goodness you (Republicans) can find a more electable candidate than Bryson.

At Thursday, July 26, 2007 2:23:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Electable, perhaps-but do we want electable only, or do we want good

Bredesen is plenty electable, but if he's good, I would hate to see bad.

At Thursday, July 26, 2007 3:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well in my opinion anybody would better than Bredesen.

At Thursday, July 26, 2007 5:35:00 AM, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

Excellent point.

At Monday, July 30, 2007 10:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish someone would pay me that kind of money to keep my mouth shut.


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