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Ap­ply to the State of Arkansas

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

HAVE YOU heard? State gov­ern­ment is hir­ing again even though, back in Jan­uary 2015, Gover­nor and bud­geteer-in-chief Asa Hutchin­son had re­quired all heads of state agen­cies to get his per­mis­sion be­fore fill­ing any va­can­cies. But start­ing next month, the Guv is to let those in charge of the state’s var­i­ous agen­cies be in charge of them—that is, they should no longer have to get his per­mis­sion to fill any empty slots in their or­ga­ni­za­tion. Though he’ll still be keep­ing tabs.

One of the gover­nor’s spokesper­sons, J.R. Davis, of­fered this his­tor­i­cal overview of state em­ploy­ment pol­icy the past cou­ple of years: “We had the hir­ing freeze, which is one po­si­tion by one po­si­tion, and we’ve kind of kept up [with state em­ploy­ment] through that. This will help us re­ally be able to fig­ure out where th­ese changes are tak­ing place, where th­ese in­creases are com­ing from, and for us to be able to ad­dress those is­sues.”

At last re­port, some 1,400 job slots in state gov­ern­ment were empty and about 31,300 peo­ple work for those state agen­cies (while an­other 29,600 are em­ployed by the state’s in­sti­tu­tions of what’s de­scribed, some­times com­i­cally, as higher ed­u­ca­tion). A good pol­icy wouldn’t set ar­bi­trary lim­its on man­agers but give them lee­way—within rea­son­able lim­its— and let them take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own de­ci­sions. And if they mess up, fire them too. Which is how the best pri­vate en­ter­prises work, and pub­lic ones should fol­low suit.

Key leg­is­la­tors seem amenable to the gover­nor’s lat­est plan. Gen­tle Reader can tell they’re key be­cause they serve on the Per­son­nel Sub­com­mit­tee of the Arkansas Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil, but though some of them may not have heard of the gover­nor’s plan to thaw his hir­ing freeze, they now seem all for it. To quote Repub­li­can state Sen­a­tor John Cooper of Jones­boro, “It sounds like the plan the gover­nor has go­ing for­ward is re­al­is­tic and well thought out.”

The vice chair­man of the sub­com­mit­tee, Demo­cratic state Sen­a­tor Joyce El­liott of Lit­tle Rock, sec­onds Sen­a­tor Cooper’s mo­tion. “Gen­er­ally when there are is­sues,” she says, “peo­ple tend to call leg­is­la­tors to com­plain. I’ve not got­ten any type of that kind of complaint, and I sus­pect be­cause if was soft.” Even in this all-too-par­ti­san era, bi­par­ti­san sup­port can be ral­lied on be­half of an idea as good as the gover­nor’s.

Three cheers if not more for both this Repub­li­can gover­nor and the bi­par­ti­san sup­port he’s at­tract­ing th­ese hal­cyon days when it comes to his plans for the state pay­roll and how to man­age it. For when times are good and show­ing signs of get­ting even bet­ter, it’s easy enough to get a man­date from both par­ties. And this is a Goldilocks mo­ment for the Amer­i­can econ­omy—not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Though things could be even righter. For while em­ploy­ment is up, wages still lag be­hind.

Ac­cord­ing to the eco­nomic laws, which tend to be bro­ken with some reg­u­lar­ity, pay for work­ers should be in­creas­ing, yet it seems stuck for the time be­ing. The pay of Amer­i­can work­ers, in­clud­ing those who work for gov­ern­ment, can and should be bet­ter. Yet em­ploy­ers seem to be hold­ing back, as if they can’t quite be­lieve this rush of good news. Pros­per­ity, it seems, is go­ing to take some get­ting used to. Be­fore that old spoil­sport, the eco­nomic cy­cle, re­turns and boom turns to bust. Which is all the more rea­son to cel­e­brate this rare mo­ment of equi­lib­rium. Cheers!

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