Jim Brown: Who should earn big bucks working for the state?
How do you put a dollar value on the worth of a public official? Attorneys working full time for the LSU Health Sciences Center are asking to be paid more than $400,000 a year. So how do you justify such large increases? How about this idea? Shouldn’t receiving such large salaries be based on results?
LSU football coach Ed Orgeron will pocket some $4 million this year, making him one of the highest-paid football coaches in the nation. He received such an enormous salary package based on results. It’s the old adage that you get what you pay for, and with Orgeron, LSU ended the season with a top ten ranking.
Some state officials say they have to work seven days a week. But a lot of people work that hard. Should time and work be the only criteria in paying public employees? Why not pay the governor and other public officials based on a scale of how well they perform and what results they achieve?
It seems like someone is always giving the re-assurance that comes from the bogus public versus private sector comparisons. Fortune 500 CEOs make on average $10 million. Some would argue that paying the Governor of Louisiana $130,000 a year to oversee a $30 billion enterprise is a real bargain! But what about results?
I would surmise that most voters in Louisiana would think it’s a good idea to pay elected officials based on performance. But how do you do it? When you talk about results, it is certainly easier to define it in the private sector. Results are measured in the stock price of a publicly traded company or by profit in any other company. The more the company makes, the more its managers can earn.
But can you create an accountability and production index in government? I think you can. This would be a challenge for key economists at Louisiana universities. Develop a formula that would give a “performance index.” Sounds difficult, but why not give it a try?
I suggest starting with the “misery index” we’ve heard so much about. This so-called misery index, you may recall, is the sum of the Louisiana unemployment rate added to the state’s inflation rate. Go ahead and pay Gov. John Bel Edwards and his brain trust the big bucks. The governor should make $1 million a year. But this amount would be adjusted by the misery index. Right now, the index is a relatively low 8%, so Edwards’ salary would be close to what he now makes: $130,000. Remember you divide the whole number, not the percentage.
We should build into the formula increases in high school math performance, elementary student test results, reduction in the state’s troubling pollution levels, and maybe the number of new movies that are shot in Louisiana each year. Leave out the LSU national football ratings, but include the student athlete graduation rates.
Finally, I would factor in consumer confidence. Are the voters getting tangible results? Are they happy with the performance of their top public officials? If you own shares of stock, and have little confidence in your company investment, you simply sell the stock. The average Joe ought to be able to put in his two cents worth as to the value he’s getting out of Louisiana government. Get his opinion through a statewide poll, and factor the results in to the performance Index.
So to public officials working in Louisiana, I say make your case and ask for the salary level you think you are worth. But just like in the private sector, be prepared to defend the bottom line. The proof of course is in the pudding. Be accountable for the results that take place. And if you succeed, reap the benefits.
In ancient Rome, there was a tradition when major projects were built. Whenever a Roman engineer constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible. He stood under the arch.
Pay these pied pipers of change and economic growth the big bucks they say they are worth. But keep them directly under the arch of performance. And let voters know there will be a day of reckoning if this promise of change and results plummet to the ground.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.