Idaho department heads need flexibility
in determining how to reduce salary costs
– Gov. C.L. 'Butch' Otter –
As Governor, I have been drawing on my experience at the state and federal levels but most importantly in the private sector to bring greater efficiency and accountability to our state government – to run it more like a business. That means providing our customers – Idaho citizens – with services and programs within their financial means and consistent with our Constitution, laws and the proper role of government.
It also means maintaining a motivated work force of employees and managers who are appreciated, compensated, and empowered. I am honored to have one of the most professional teams of managers that it has ever been my privilege to know, in public life or the private sector, helping me promote those principles of employee empowerment and motivation.
My goal has been to engage in a partnership with legislators, encouraging them to help me make the pay and benefits of state employees more closely reflect similar positions in the private sector. I asked for 5-percent pay increases for state employees in each of my first two budget recommendations. For the coming year, amid the most serious economic downturn in decades – when private employees are losing their jobs and businesses are shutting down – I asked the Legislature to share the burden that taxpayers are bearing by reducing state government personnel costs. But I also was clear and consistent with the Legislature that agency directors must be allowed to decide how to accomplish those reductions.
Managers who best know the needs of their operations must be empowered to make decisions about how to allocate limited resources – something anyone in private business would do in order to accomplish their job while keeping their best and most effective employees in place.
The question is not whether state agency budgets will be reduced; there really is no choice. Our constitutional requirement to balance the state budget requires it. The question rather is how we accomplish those reductions.
Unfortunately, some state employees and other citizens have the impression that I encouraged or even pushed for across-the-board pay cuts. That could not be further from the truth. In fact, I consistently urged the Legislature to leave it to each agency director to develop and implement a plan for reducing budgets in an equitable and strategic manner. After all, the Idaho Constitution empowers the Legislature to set budgets and outline policy, but managing day-to-day operations of state government is an Executive Branch responsibility – it is our responsibility.
Simply put: State employee pay should be set the same as it is in the private sector, according to merit, and managers should be allowed to manage. To do otherwise demeans the value of individual contributions. That is no way to run a business, and it is not the way to run state government.
Thank you all for your continuing contributions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our service to the people of Idaho.