The chair of the new commission that’s studying state salaries says he’d like the legislature to adopt new rules for handing out bonuses. Governor Vilsack appointed the three-person panel after legislators criticize his move to give bonuses to several department heads. Commission chair Jim Cownie says it appears the governor has the authority to give the bonuses, but they should be based on specific criteria the legislature can review.He says there’s “a little misunderstanding or gray area” in that process. Vilsack says the bonuses were needed to get the best people — while legislators say the governor used them to get around their salary caps. Cownie says he’d like the governor to formalize the employee review process so lawmakers can see how the governor decides who deserves bonuses. He says that would give a person objective goals, and if they exceed those goals, they might get a large bonus. On the other hand, he says if they don’t meet the goals, they might lose their job, or get a salary decrease. The Governor’s staff says he does base his bonuses on exceptional job performance and will be happy to have the commission review his evaluation procedures. The staff also provided a survey of department director’s salaries in 25 Midwestern states that shows 84-percent of Iowa directors are paid above average salaries. Cownie says that’s fine with him as long as Iowa doesn’t have more directors than other states.He says “we want the fewest, smartest, hardest working, state government employees possible.” He says “we don’t want the largest number making average compensation, we want the smallest number making above-average compensation.” The commission must make recommendations on compensation and recruitment by Christmas.
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