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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Republican legislature reluctant to root out waste in lieutenant governor's office

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 7:15 AM

click to enlarge $25 AN HOUR: That's what Republican Saline JP Josh Curtis gets as "director of government relations" for a non-existent state officeholder.
  • $25 AN HOUR: That's what Republican Saline JP Josh Curtis gets as "director of government relations" for a non-existent state officeholder.
Sen. Bruce Maloch of Magnolia introduced as promised yesterday a measure to reduce spending in the fiscal year beginning July 1 on the vacant lieutenant governor's office. It faces Republican resistance, including outright opposition from Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux. Republicans are serious about cutting spending except when it involves political cronies apparently.

Maloch first proposed to spend no money on the office beginning July 1 and through the end of calendar 2014. There won't be a lieutenant governor until someone is elected to take office in 2015 to succeed Republican Mark Darr, who resigned after being exposed for taking taxpayer and campaign money for personal expenses.

But he won committee approval of spending $40,000 on salaries and $12,000 on benefits, about a fifth of a full budget. Enough to keep one person employed.

The office, which has no officeholder and no duties, has a $267,000 annual budget. It seems generous of Maloch to give the four-person office six months of paid severance as it is, through June 30. How many people do you know who've been laid off who got full pay, health and other benefits and paid holidays for six months? How many people do you know who get paid to do nothing?

But this is a Republican office, stocked with Republican insiders. The chief of staff, Bruce Campbell, who makes $75,000, held a patronage job under Mike Huckabee for years before moving to this gravy train. He's father-in-law of Joint Budge Co-Chair Duncan Baird. He's a former Senate aide. Republicans anxious to toss the working poor off new medical insurance; anxious to root out fraud among the unemployed; anxious to send 11th-hour unconstitutional tax breaks to frackers; resistant to increases in the state's $6.25 an hour minimum wage are NOT anxious to take Bruce Campbell off his public teat. Or the three other office members either. They include a Republican JP from Saline County, Josh Curtis, who knocks down a nifty $51,000 (better than $25 an hour) for doing nothing. (Excuse me. He's director of government relations. Looks like he's doing a pretty good job of relations with some in government in keeping his own nest feathered.) Communications Director Amber Pool is paid $57,000 for not communicating. Executive Assistant Raeanne Gardner is paid $33,600 (better than $16 an hour) to answer the phone, should it ring.

Imagine for a second if this was an office stocked with Democratic cronies. You could have heard GOP Chair Doyle Webb's shrieking from Eudora to Bella Vista. 

But this is the new Republican day. New pigs look a lot like the old pigs to me.

Senate President Michael Lamoureux continues to disappoint. His lame excuse for keeping this office fully staffed is that he wouldn't be comfortable cutting jobs should another statewide official resign their office. Yes, but …. Those other offices have duties that continue whether the officeholder is in place or not. The treasurer's office has deposits to oversee. The auditor's office has checks to cut. The land commissioner has tax sales to oversee. The secretary of state has papers to file. The governor has executive agencies to oversee.

The lieutenant governor's office? Nothing. That office's only duties are serving as governor when the governor is absent from the state and presiding over the Senate. These hardly count as duties. In any case, they can't be performed by the staff. Lamoureux has an adequate Senate staff to handle any succession duties that should fall on him. None to date.

This is partisan pig slopping. No more or less.

PS — Curtis was able to take time for his busy day working for the state to announce for a second term as Saline JP. Attaching to public nozzles runs in the family. His father is Saline County clerk.

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