Thursday, January 09, 2014

Political courage

Is often in short supply, and this year is no exception.  Gov Otter came into office in, what, 2006 or so, saying that he wanted to run government more like business.  So part of that was to get state employee compensation in line with the private sector.  To his credit, he proposed a decent raise for state employees, and the got a raise that year.  However, he also went along with increases in what employees had to pay for health insurance, so the net raise was there, but small.

Well, the economy tanked and the legislature, with the Gov's acquiescence, stopped all raises.  Since then, 6 years, state employees have received one small raise.  The various oracles of compensation all agree that state pay is way behind the private sector, and so is overall compensation.  That is, even factoring in benefits, state workers are under compensated.

Now comes 2014, and the economy is on the mend, and state revenues are ticking up.  But Gov Otter recommends no pay raise.  Why?  Well, I think it's that he has a primary opponent.  Republicans hate state employees, for the most part.  Worthless, lazy and overpaid, that's how Republicans view state workers.  Of course; it has to be that way.  When you hate government, it's value to you is zero or negative, and therefore any government employee's work is valueless or a drag, and therefore anything you pay them is too much.

You'd think that they'd want workers to be lazy, so they don't actively f things up, since everything they do is bad.  But viewing someone as lazy is a nice way to get your hate on, and that's too tempting to pass up, even if it makes no logical sense.

So, it would be risky for Otter to propose pay raises, given his challenge from the right.  So he didn't.  Lack of courage, in that instance.

I'll credit him with some spine for letting the Dept. of Correction take over the private prison (some, not a lot, not that tough a call), and for allowing Idaho to set up its own health care exchange.  That did take some courage, and is probably what led to his primary opponent.  I'm just afraid he's learned from that and will take no risky stands.

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