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Pay plan disposition may signal Jindal strategic shift

The perfunctory approval of the Joint Governmental Affairs Committee of the latest pay plan to make it out of the State Civil Service Commission, and then its expected approval next week by that body, may signal a shift of strategy in the long campaign by the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration to create a more efficient classified civil service.

This endorsement of the rather tepid changes, which now sends the proposal back to the SCSC for public comment and formal approval at its next meeting next week, does not now attain what Jindal has stated he wants in a new pay plan. Principally, it does not allow for pay raise levels to be tied to evaluation category (the present five being collapsed into three), nor within a level allowing agency supervisors flexibility in determining raises. The one-size-fits all current system where roughly 99 percent of rated employees fall into the top three categories and all get the same four percent raise acts more as a cost-of-living raise (an actual one not given now for over a decade) than any motivational tool or wise expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars that accurately matches compensation to productivity.

Yet the new plan, less bold that ones passed out by the SCSC previously when not all non-elected appointees had come from Jindal but he vetoed as they did not contain exactly what he wanted, looks certain to go to Jindal as he has given no indication that he will reject it.
After two failed tries and boosting his number of appointees to six of seven members, one would think if a plan even less like the one he appears to want than previous ones he rejected got proposed, some word would have come from him that it wasn’t going to fly and it would not have progressed to this stage.

If Jindal does sign off on it, no later than the middle of January, this likely indicates a change in strategy to an incremental approach. More time would seem beneficial as the offer also contains other changes of a more procedural nature that may take time to implement. Also, the more radical past attempts attracted a flurry of employee, if spurious, complaints, so the thinking may be to get the less controversial stuff through before more substantial changes. So Jindal approval should not be construed as acquiescence to the SCSC not wishing to go as far as him, but as a process of building to his desired alterations.

If so, it appears the systemic changes wanted by Jindal will not occur before the 2013-14 fiscal year. As one current change shifts all evaluation to a fiscal year calendar, the state would wish for the 2012-13 fiscal year beginning next July to operate under the new rules before tackling anything else. That is a shame, as the state likely that year would save tens of millions of dollars through increased productivity and reduced or no raises going out to low performers. However, this probably is another Jindal strategic concession, just as his inactivity over the past couple of years in pushing home his ideal plan after the previous tries can be written off as not wishing to rile some state employees as his reelection approached.

His second term now secure, Jindal now has the opportunity to finish this job, more gradually, before he leaves office. That would leave only one more nagging issue unaddressed for the SCSC to handle – the wild inflation of evaluative standards that rates almost every state classified employee as at least competent, thus qualifying for the flat pay hike, far above the norm for private sector workers. With the ability for supervisors to give flexible increases, that would make easier dealing with the consequences of this tendency, which also wastes taxpayer resources. Hopefully, the actions in conjunction with the presently-proposed plan indicate a projection to this point.

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