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The politics of pay

Maybe Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons and AIG executives can start a support group together — a place where the politically clueless can remind one another of the huge bull’s-eyes on their back sides.

But a funny thing happens when you’re an irresistible target for anyone seeking political gain: Opportunists are so quick to cast stones that they don’t bother to fully consider the merits of their arguments, and how they might be applied to themselves. (As though Congress has any credibility in decrying mismanagement and wasteful practices.)

Take the latest pot of hot water the Republican governor has stumbled into: His decision to give promotions and big pay raises to most of his staff. The governor has absolute discretion in allocating the $1.519 million budgeted for his office by the Legislature. Although the Legislature authorized 27 positions for that amount, Gov. Gibbons has elected to go with a reduced staff of 16.5, justifying the higher salaries by piling more duties on fewer people. In doing this, the governor’s office will come in 11 percent under budget.

However, taking this path makes Gov. Gibbons seem oblivious to the fact that across Nevada, those fortunate enough to still have jobs are assuming extra duties and working harder without the benefit of a pay raise — and some are enduring income and and benefit reductions. It’s lousy leadership by example for the governor to take care of his gang and expect sacrifice from everyone else.

Naturally, Democrats have pounced on him, pointing out that his 2009-11 budget calls for all state workers, including schoolteachers, to take 6 percent pay cuts. (Gov. Gibbons has promised to impose a similar pay cut on himself and his staff).

But many of these same Democrats and the public employee unions they answer to like to boast that lean staffing and higher workloads — even with excessive overtime — save taxpayers money. Fewer bodies on the payroll means significantly reduced benefits costs — no health coverage for dependents, no pension contributions, you see.

So now that these same people are calling out the governor for taking this approach to cutting overhead costs, we won’t have to hear them defend rank-and-file workers for toeing the same line — right?

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