Iowa lawmakers continue to raise questions about bonus pay for some top state managers, even as the practice is being phased out. Ray Walton, interim director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, told the legislature’s Government Oversight Committee yesterday the governor had ordered a stop to bonus pay back in July.
"Historically extra pay was used for recruitment and retention," he said. "The climate has changed and the need for that has gone away." Representative Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield, believes bonus pay will return once the economy rebounds, so he’s proposed legislation to ban bonuses in state government.
"So we don’t have another CIETEC raping the taxpayers, because that’s what CIETEC (did)," Baudler says. CIETEC was the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium, a quasi-government agency that received state and federal funding. A 2005 audit found CIETEC’s C-E-O arranged lavish bonuses for herself and two other top executives, all of whom have gone on trial in connection with the scandal.
The chief operating office of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services says some bonuses can be beneficial, particularly those used for recruitment and retention. Nancy Berggren says state government needs to tool to remain competitive. "We have some critical needs that are really hard to fill — for example psychiatric nurses, sometimes physicians, " she says. "In those cases when we’re competing with hospitals and places like that that sometimes have very creative pay mechanisms, that does help."
Berggren says bonuses should be used sparingly, but she opposes banning them altogether. Democrats who control the legislature’s debate agenda say they’re satisfied bonuses have been eliminated, so there’s no need to pass Baudler’s bill.