Fiscal restraint needs to come from both parties

We often hear the right wing say everything would be so much better if government was run like a business.

Unfortunately, the likely Republican standard-bearer for governor in 2012 has embraced Wall Street investment banks as his role-model.

A recent review of state records by the Northwest Progressive Institute discovered that State Attorney General Rob McKenna approved nearly $600,000 in bonus payments last year to members of his staff while other state workers were facing pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs.

In late 2008, the governor advised state agencies to withhold performance recognition awards, and most agencies complied.

But several months later, McKenna awarded huge awards to senior members of his staff, just as the Legislature was making draconian spending cuts to education and public health programs in an effort to balance the state budget.

According to figures from the Department of Personnel’s Washington State Government Performance Incentives and Bonuses, Washington’s most prominent statewide elected Republican has some seriously misplaced fiscal priorities.

Fortunately, there are sane voices presenting a rational alternative to the Wall Street mentality of Rob McKenna.

One of them is 26th District state Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor), who is sponsoring House Bill 2998 to suspend monetary awards and salary increases through June 30, 2011.

There’s further legislation planned to reform the state workers’ promotion and compensation system, but this is a good first step.

It’s unfortunate that the Legislature feels compelled to consider such a common-sense proposal, but necessary given McKenna’s poor judgment.

Steve Breaux, a former communications specialist at the state Legislature, is a contributing author to the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

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