Tag Archives: featherbedding

Once again, Darcie Johnston has her finger on the pulse of the electorate

As of this writing, the manhunt continues for Richard Matt and David Sweat, the two escaped murderers in upstate New York and Vermont. Cops on the lookout, distributing flyers all over the place; warnings to campers; constant updates in the local media, a sudden and very real outbreak of fears that Vermonters like to think they’re immune from.

And right on cue, here comes conservative political consultant Darcie Johnston, who hasn’t been on a winning campaign since she left the Jim Jeffords operation more than a decade ago, with the real question that’s on everybody’s mind. Not.

Yeah, really. Those goddamn featherbedding cops, traipsing through the fields and forests at all hours. It’s like a vacation when you think about it. The New York Times:

Those who know the terrain have made jokes that, if the men are in these woods, they are surprised the pair have not turned themselves over to the authorities by now, beaten up by nature and begging for a break. The rain has fallen regularly and hard. The woods are filled with skunks, porcupines and black bears. Then there are the bugs that swarm the forest this time of year: black flies, ticks and deer flies.

Usually, you can count on conservatives to support law enforcement and security as a true core function of government, and express gratitude to those who risk their own safety to preserve ours. But not Darcie, I guess.

I’d like to know her alternative. Call off the search and let the free market sort it out? Contract it to the private sector and hire the lowest bidder?

Hey, I know: send in the drones and bomb ’em out. Might be some collateral damage, but I bet we’d save some precious taxpayer dollars.

The Campbell Assessment, updated

My previous post concerned apparent featherbedding by Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell. Traditionally, the Speaker and Pro Tem each get one full-time aide, at a salary in the $55,000 range. The Speaker is still there, but Campbell now has two full-time staffers drawing a combined salary of $111,000.

Since Campbell started padding his staff following his disastrous performance in the 2011-12 biennium, I called the difference “the price tag for John Campbell’s incompetence.” We could shorten that to The Campbell Assessment if you like.

In response, commenter Seth Hopkins pointed out that a state worker gets more than a salary; there are also public-sector-quality benefits. Since Campbell has added a second staffer, his payroll now includes full-time bennies for both.

What does that cost? The answer, from the state HR Department website:

The State’s total compensation package for employees features an outstanding set of employee benefits that are worth about 30% of your salary.

Okay, so add 30% to the cost of Campbell’s staff. That brings us to $144,000, more or less. It might end up being more than that; Campbell’s previous aide, Rebecca Ramos, piled up $23,000 in overtime and comp time in her last year on the job. But let’s stick with $144,000.

House Speaker Shap Smith’s aide earns $55,000. Add 30% for bennies ($16,500), and you get $71,500. So the baseline Campbell Assessment is $72,500.

But hey, he’s a great guy. You just can’t put a price tag on that. Can you?

We can now put a price tag on John Campbell’s incompetence

…thanks to Terri Hallenbeck, pinch-hitting for Paul Heintz in the Freyne Memorial Chair:

In the last two years, [Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell has] quietly increased his office’s staffing and more than doubled his payroll.

He’s done so — without any explicit policy change, nor anyone else’s approval — even as lawmakers consider cutting other state jobs to close yet another budget gap. Some say the situation reveals a disturbing lack of oversight. Others consider the money well spent, given that his enhanced staff has helped restore order under the oft-distracted and perpetually disorganized Campbell.

Aww, that’s nice. We’re spending a bunch of extra money because John Campbell can’t keep his shit together. And yet the Democratic caucus keeps re-electing him out of classic Vermonty loyalty to “my grandfather’s lightbulb.” 

Now, the amount of money isn’t that much in state budget terms — somewhere in the $50,000 to $70,000 range. The Pro Tem staff historically consists of one person paid roughly $50K per year. When Campbell hired Rebecca Ramos to pull his fat out of the fire after a disastrous 2012 Senate session, her starting salary was $70K. But in her last year on the job, she took home $103,000 thanks to a whole lot of overtime and unused comp time.

Campbell has replaced her — with not one, but two staffers, with total compensation of $111,000. By comparison, Hallenbeck reports that House Speaker Shap Smith’s sole staffer makes $55,000, and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s staffing cost is roughly the same.

I think we’re safe in concluding that the taxpayers of Vermont are shelling out an extra $60,000 or so to keep John Campbell in a job he can’t handle.

But he’s such a nice guy!

Postscript. As commenter Seth Hopkins pointed out, my $60,000 estimate is almost certainly low. Now that Campbell has hired two staffers, they’re presumably drawing the state benefits package — health care, pension, etc. So the real price of Campbell’s incompetence is more than 60K.