Cutting fat important to states health

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 21, 2008

The issue: State government is the largest it has been in a decade.

Our position: Can you say spoils?

It happens all the time: Somebody has a niece or nephew that has graduated recently from college and needs to get a foot in the door.

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So, somebody has a connection with the state and that nephew winds up eventually pulling a state salary.

Some folks call it feeding at the public trough.

Others call it the spoils system.

On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that it had reviewed public records showing

state government went from 34,553 employees in fiscal 1998 to 37,512 in fiscal 2007.

Gov. Bob Riley said he knew the headlines would be all over the increase in workers, which he equated with Alabama growth.

The AP story said that from 1998 to 2007 the number of state employees rose and fell with the state&8217;s fortune.

But the story pointed out that since Riley&8217;s arrival in the governor&8217;s office in 2004, the numbers have increased steadily.

Now, that&8217;s about as Jeffersonian as you can get.

The spoils system is when a political party comes to power, its leaders put their faithful into important public offices, and in turn those faithful put their friends into office and so on.

At one time, people assumed the spoils system in this nation became habit during Andrew Jackson&8217;s presidency.

But the spoils system is much older. President Thomas Jefferson, a Democrat-Republican, wanted to keep rival Federalists out of government offices, so he appointed his faithful.

One of the reforms of the Gilded Age was passage of the Pendleton Act that created a bipartisan civil service commission on the federal level.

On the local level, the practice of patronage has continued in some form or the other, despite the bringing down of the Tammany Hall ring in the 1930s and the Shakman Decrees of Chicago.

Feeding at the public trough is expensive for taxpayers.

This is a state that can hardly afford to educate its children.

And some have warned of layoffs of state workers because of hard economic times.

Our lawmakers should look hard at trimming the fat.

A lean government operates better.