Apply to the State of Arkansas
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!