Montana Politics

State Pay Bonuses: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

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I’m glad to see that Bob Bergren is pushing for a bill to ban the practice of some elected officials to give large bonuses to employees, but disappointed to see that former auditor John Morrison gave out over $180,000 dollars in bonuses during the last fiscal year.

One recipient of a $10,000 bonus, Deputy Auditor Jan Van Riper, offered an intriguing justification for the bonuses:

Van Riper said that all employees in the 70-plus person auditor’s office received at least a $500 bonus based on their length of service in the office, except for one person who had just joined the staff.

The auditor’s office had money left in its 2008 fiscal year budget, which ended June 30, and would have lost it if it hadn’t awarded the bonuses then, she said.

In a little known rule of budgeting, the money would not actually have disappeared. It would have been returned to the general fund or the state reserves.

These are well-compensated professionals, with salaries that are both known to them when they take the jobs and part of the public record. It’s just absurd that our elected officials think their office budgets are best used to give bonuses to their employees rather than provide services for Montanans. Speaker Bergren and the Legislature should do more than block end of term bonuses, and eliminate them altogether.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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