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More efficient, or playing politics? Governor's state worker revamp advances

More efficient, or playing politics? Governor's state worker revamp advances

CREATED Feb 17, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Governor Brewer's plan to make it easier to fire state employees has passed a key house committee.

The bill's backers claim it'll make it easier to get rid of bad employees, while opponents fear it'll be easier to play politics with who works for the state.

State employees do everything from maintaining roads, to issuing licenses to drive on those roads, to locking away prisoners.
Most state workers fall under procedures that allow them to fight efforts to fire them.
Governor Brewer's spokesman Matt Benson says she is trying to make working for the state more like working for private industry.  We asked if that means easier firing too.

Benson says, "We have some employees that aren't good workers and unfortunately supervisors have to jump through a number of hoops when it comes to disciplining these folks and if it ever does reach a point of termination there's this extensive review process of grievances, appeals and ultimately that decision can be overturned by the State Personnel Board and that's something we've seen multiple instances of in state government."

Democratic Tucson State Rep Daniel Patterson is on the committee that heard the bill. He says the bill's backers can't even prove firing's a problem.

"They have no solid evidence there's a problem here and we don't believe that there are.  In fact state employees who aren't doing their jobs should be fired and they are and that's one thing we found out.  If you're a state employee, I think most state employees work hard.  We need them.   They help run our state but if they're not doing the job they should be fired and they are fired and in almost every single case those personnel actions are upheld so there's already a system in place."
 Patterson says without the protections there will be too much chance for politics to decide who's hired and fired.  If the changes pass, they'll apply to new hires.  Current employees could keep the protections they have.

The Governor's plan offers current workers a five percent pay hike if they'll waive their employment protections.
Lawmakers say there's no assurance there will be money in the budget to pay for that.