This argument is usually put forth to get people to support a candidate based on his or her success in the private sector.
Just how this works in the political world is not always clear. Last week, however, Alabamians saw a state-agency head do what a company president would do when faced with the same problem.
Although the Alabama state courts, like almost every other agency in the state, have had to endure sharp budget cuts and staff reductions, Alyce Spruell, director of the state Administrative Office of Courts, approved raises for some administrative employees. The paychecks of two workers increased more than 30 percent.
Spruell has tried to justify the largess in a time of austerity. “It’s a business decision,” she told the Associated Press, “but it’s a decision I had no qualms in making.”
Using a business model, Spruell concluded that because of the budget cuts and staff reductions, some of those who remained on the job had to take on the duties of those who left. Even with fewer people, the work has to be done, and those doing it deserve extra compensation.
Makes sense, business-wise.
Moreover, some got raises to keep them on the job. Other businesses were trying to lure them away, just as businesses do in the private sector. Judging that the state could not afford to lose these critical employees, the director raised their salaries to keep them from leaving.
That’s also a wise business decision.
However, what would happen if these business principles were applied to other areas of state government?
Should the state trooper who has to take on extra duties get a raise to compensate for the additional work because Public Safety Department funds are cut?
Should the elementary school teacher who discovers that the size of her class has increased due to budget cuts get extra pay for having to teach extra students?
And should math and science teachers who might earn more in the private sector (or in a school in a neighboring state) be paid more to keep them teaching Alabama kids?
If what Spruell did is “good business,” then why doesn’t the same principle apply to other Alabama agencies?
This is something that those who argue that the state should be run like a business should consider.