The following editorial appeared in The Inter-Mountain, Elkins, on Sept. 16:
Make too many dumb mistakes as a corporate executive, and you will be filing for unemployment compensation. Make too many as a small business owner, and the cost comes out of your pocket.
Neither of those ramifications is true in government. Bureaucrats and their elected bosses get away with fumble after fumble while suffering few, if any, consequences.
After all, it’s only taxpayers’ money, right?
Last year, West Virginia legislators voted unanimously to change the way about 48,200 state employees are paid. Instead of receiving paychecks twice a month, they will get them every two weeks. No doubt someone told lawmakers the switch would be more efficient, saving taxpayers’ money.
They are learning nothing in government is that simple or easy.
A legislative auditor this week warned lawmakers mistakes in how the switch was handled may cost the state tens of millions of dollars.
One difficulty is that the switch will create a $22.5 million liability in public employee pension systems.
Another is that salaried employees, slightly more than half the total, will receive pay raises averaging $231 a year. That will cost $47.1 million during the next decade.
Hourly employees will not find their paychecks fatter, however.
State Auditor Glen Gainer defended the change, insisting that “the standardization of business processes is going to save the state millions of dollars.”
So often in government, that seems to be the defense for shoddiness: Hey, we’re going to save some money, so what’s the fuss over wasting a lot of it in the process?
That is not good enough in the private sector. It is not good enough in West Virginia households — taxpayers’ families — where finding ways to save money while guarding against waste at the same time is a continuing imperative.
Why, then, do we still accept that massive, costly errors such as the payday switch are “good enough for government work?”