Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Otter housing stipend

The Statesman's Kevin Richert opined that Gov Otter ought to give back his $4,500 monthly housing stipend, given the hard times and all. (I'd link to this, but can't find it on the Statesman's website.)

I'm of mixed minds on this. On one hand, I understand that the stipend is designed for governors who don't live nearby, so they don't have to maintain a second home at their own expense. Otter, who lives in Star, doesn't have to maintain a second home, so him accepting the stipend is a bit like Sarah Palin charging Alaska a per diem to stay in her home.

On the other hand, I think at least part of the stipend is to allow a governor to have a place to entertain in association with official state functions. A state reception or dinner, or the like. I believe that Otter has used his home for this, though I can't say for sure. (Perhaps I'm remembering a Republican Party function there, which is troubling if true, given that the stipend could be seen as supporting this function.)

On the third hand, I don't really like the idea of asking state employees, even ones at the top, to bear the brunt of budget shortfalls. People vote for fiscally conservative legislators, and they accordingly try to keep the budget lean. When state employees don't get raises, or take days without pay, they still deliver the services of the agency they're working for, so taxpayers don't experience the effect of budget problems.

If we just eliminated some service altogether, so that taxpayers felt the effect of fiscal conservatism, perhaps they'd vote to return the service. This is kind of a spiteful "I'll show you" idea, and will probably not happen. But it illustrates my point, that state employees tend to be used to perpetuate the political status quo. And so, if the Gov is entitled under the current law to a stipend, I say let him have it. If we don't like that, change the law to exclude Governors within commuting distance, but don't game the system by asking Otter, or any state employee, to make sacrifices that aren't asked of others.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

But, there is a perfectly good governor's mansion that no one wants to use (for various reasons). But the fact of the matter is, the State of Idaho currently has a governor's mansion. If Otter does not want to live there, that's fine, but he shouldn't be paid to live somewhere else. And the same arguement applies to any functions - they can be held at a variety of locations (including the house on the hill), for much less money.

Yes, the legislature should change that law. But Otter should be responsible enough to refuse it. Can you imagine the impact that would have made had he done that 8 months ago?

jemcgimpsey said...

> but don't game the system by asking Otter, or
> any state employee, to make sacrifices that
> aren't asked of others.

OK, I provisionally agree (tho' it would be at least a modest gesture).

So, like will happen with state employees in other Departments, why don't we ask the governor to go half-time...??

alan said...

Anon, good point about the unused Gov Mansion. I understand it really isn't useful a a Gov mansion without some major renovation, and the state doesn't want to spend the $$ to renovate it.

Jemc, I think the Gov's office is giving up a position, so they are pitching in. Again, I say we just ax some service entirely, and leave everyone else alone. How about the Dept of Water Resources? Let's stop trying to figure out a solution for scarce water and just let everyone fight over water in the courts and save State budget $$.

Bay Views said...

It is not a governors mansion. It is a vacant mansion in need of many repairs and upgrades that the state has chosen to defer. It is only a Goveror's mansion when it is dedicated as such, which has not happened. It's almost like a half built house in a deserted tract, sitting all framed up but with no lights or heat. Is this a home? Or is it a construction project?