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Home arrow Opinion arrow Our View arrow TIMING BAD ON BONUS FOR STATE WORKERS



Gov. Ted Kulongoski didn't further his cause to help bring accountability back to state government when he approved giving thousands of non-union state workers a one-time $350 bonus to cover health insurance premiums. In fact, the public and Legislature should be taking the governor to task for this costly administrative decision.

The money will go to top-level executives, managers, their staffs and other personnel, according to a story The Oregonian broke last week. The bonuses will be paid with $3 million from the general fund and $6 million from federal and other resources. The governor agreed to the bonuses for the sake of pay equity with union workers who won the concession during negotiations this past summer.

Theresa McHugh, the governor's budget director, defended Kulongoski's action by saying that he agreed to eliminate cost-of-living and step increases for state workers that, when combined with state pension reforms, saved the state about $1 billion.

Considering the financial pickle the state is in and the possibility that the Legislature's income tax surcharge could be repealed in February, every dollar counts. The state must continue to look for ways to save money, even if it means some state workers will have to pick up some costs — at least through this biennium and until the economy turns around — from a health insurance package most workers in the private sector can only dream of and likely will never see.

Since taking office in January, Kulongoski has been trying to contain the cost of government, bring more investment to Oregon and search for ways to get Oregon on the rebound. All that is good. But he blew it on the bonus issue.

City in turmoil

Union is a community embroiled in a controversy involving its police chief. In October, City Administrator Bill Searles put Police Chief Dean Muchow on paid administrative leave pending a hearing. Some citizens, not certain as to what the personnel action was all about except for some rumors floating around town, have launched a campaign in support of the chief. Everyone is upset that details about Searles' decision haven't been disclosed, and some ugly and tasteless signs have popped up.

The controversy isn't doing anyone any good, but under Oregon law personnel actions can be kept behind closed doors unless the person being disciplined requests an open hearing.

The sooner the Union City Council resolves the matter the better it will be for all concerned as well as the health of the city. Controversy fueled by rumors doesn't do anyone any good.


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