The Costco approach to government

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, September 26, 2005

I'd like to comment on a couple of articles that recently appeared in the Empire. The first one concerns the governor's huge pay raise on his 15 commissioners, and the irony in doing so.

First the phrase that it is hard to "recruit and retain" - isn't this synonymous with "encourage qualified personnel to enter and remain?" The irony is the latter is the preamble the legislation that created the Public Employees Retirement System, the same system the governor just strong-armed the Legislature into gutting.

Second, I didn't realize there were "revolving doors" on the commissioners' offices. More often then not, the commissioners only leave office when their patron leaves office.

Third, the governor justifies this huge pay raise because of the high cost of living in Juneau. If his commissioners are finding it hard to live on $91,000 a year, how hard is it for the "rank and file" who average a little less than $40,000 a year? Remember, for the most part the people who keep the government running are the "rank and file." Whereas, the hardest part of the commissioners' jobs is dreaming up new ways of telling the governor how splendid his new wardrobe looks.

The other article I would like to address is the one about Costco, particularly the paragraph that compared Costco to Sam's Club (the Wal-Mart version of Costco). This article states that both companies gross about $34 billion a year in virtually the same business. The difference is Costco is able to do the same volume as Sam's Club but with two-thirds the number of employees. Why is this? Primarily because Costco pays their employees 25 percent more than Sam's Club, which actually saves Costco 11 percent on employee cost compared with Sam's Club.

The reason for mentioning both articles in one letter is we currently have a "Sam's Club" personnel policy in state government. It's not just the current administration, the "penny-pinching, blood-from-turnips" attitude has be around for years. If the state adopted a "Costco" style employee policy, they could save $113 million a year in wages, health insurance costs, and PERS/SRS contributions, not to mention the cost of training new "rank and file" employees, the positions where the "revolving doors" really do exist.

Do you think that any of those commissioners "who deserve a 37 percent pay increase" have drawn this parallel?

Fred C. Dobbs


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