Gov. Ted Kulongoski seems to believe the best way to retain the state's higher-paid workers is to keep reminding them how much more money they could make somewhere else.
This is a curious strategy.
The governor, so far as we know, isn't doling out tips on writing resums, however.
Last week Kulongoski did announce that 4,800 state managers will get raises of as much as 11 percent this year. The heads of 61 agencies will earn up to 21 percent more.
The governor justified these pay increases, which total about $12 million, by reciting a familiar red herring: If the state doesn't reward its managers with hefty raises, they'll bolt for better-paying jobs. It used to be that all those plum positions were in the private sector, but now, according to the state's Department of Administrative Services, managers could also make more in certain public sector jobs.
But neither Kulongoski nor his spokespeople have offered any proof that the state's supposedly meager salary scale has driven away a significant number of managers.
Surely, if the premise behind the governor's claim were valid, there would have been a mass exodus from state offices during 2003 and 2004, when budget shortfalls prompted Kulongoski to cancel pay raises for all state workers.
But apparently not even a two-year salary freeze could convince most managers to start cashing the bigger paychecks which are, if you believe Kulongoski, constantly dangled in front of them.
The governor's staff said last week that this year's pay jumps are necessary to make up for those two raise-free years. What this means, of course, is that the managers who got by without a raise for those two years still work for the state. If those managers had been lured during 2003 or 2004 by the riches awaiting them outside state employment, then they would hardly need to be compensated by the state for the two years of raises they didn't receive. We doubt Kulongoski intends to send retroactive bonus checks to former managers who finally tired of toiling for the stingy state.
If Kulongoski thinks his managers deserve raises approximately four to seven times larger than the cost-of-living increases most of the state's union employees received this year, then he ought to say so.
But the governor's contention, that the state must award those raises to avoid losing valuable employees, strains the credulity of the taxpayers who pick up the tab.
Most of them, we'd wager, recognize that it's human nature to take a higher-paying job if there's one to be had. Why would managers for the state of Oregon be so different?