Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Governor's Daughter

Much has been written elsewhere about the decision to hire newly inaugerated Governor Paul LePage's 22 year-old daughter for a staff position in the executive office. The job, which pays $41,000 per year, is Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff, or something like that.

Criticism of the hiring has ranged from complaints of her apparent lack of any particular qualifications to do the job, to charges of outright nepotism. Some analysts have determined that the action would be illegal in most states but apparently is not in Maine. While I do have some opinions on these issues I will leave the debate of them to others more knowledgeable than I.

My problem with the decision to hire Ms. LePage, or anyone else for that matter, is that there does not seem to have been any consideration whatsoever as to whether the position needed to be filled to begin with. Governor LePage ran on a promise to shrink the bloated State government and it seems to me that the easiest, quickest way to start the process would be to analyze every staff position in his own office to determine if it is critical, or even necessary, to the efficient operation of the office. If a position is not necessary, and I suspect there are lots of them that are not, then don't fill it.

This approach to filling vacancies on the Governor's staff would accomplish a couple of things: it would reduce spending, which he promised to do; and, more importantly, it would send the signal that the Governor is serious about austerity and he is willing to share the pain that budget cuts will entail. Sure, his Chief of Staff may have to get his own coffee but, hey - everbody has to suffer in the face of a budget crisis, right?

I'm not one of those who believe that the State can eliminate its deficit solely through budget cuts, but where cuts make sense they should be made and the Governor and his Chief of Staff should look at the Executive Office organization chart to see if there is any "bloat" there to be excised. Perhaps the savings would be small in relation to the overall deficit but this symbolic act would send the message that Governor LePage is not going to conduct "business as usual" even with his own immediate staff.

Or maybe all that tough campaign rhetoric about eliminating wasteful programs and expenses was just empty talk to get his supporters (38% of the electorate, as it turns out) excited. One thing I know for sure, after any election campaign workers and financial supporters (and maybe family members) of the winning candidate are frequently rewarded with staff positions and other appointed jobs. Perhaps we were expecting too much to think it would be any different this time.

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