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Pennsy managers should skip bonuses, share pain

July 03, 2003

It may make sense financially, but from a public-relations standpoint, Pennsylvania State Treasurer Barbara Hafer's decision to give 31 of her top managers $180,000 in bonuses is a loser. That's why Gov. Ed Rendell is offering no comment on his fellow official's actions. If Hafer doesn't want to do the governor serious damage, she'll back away from the plan.

Robert Gentzel, Hafer's communications director, said that the bonuses were actually part of a cost-cutting policy. What he really means is that managers' pay wasn't increased as much as it could have been, if the previous policy had been used to determine the amount of pay increases.

That previous policy based managers' merit increases on the increases given to the treasury department's union employees - the same ones being asked to do without a pay hike this year due to the state's financial problems.

If the managers' pay were truly linked to union workers pay this year, neither group would get raises. In this case, the managers will get bonuses - on top of a 2.25 percent longevity pay boost all managers received in January.

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Hafer's spokesman said that under the policy, managers' raises would have cost the state $926,616, while the bonus approach cost about $180,000. That translates into a saving of almost $750,000.

But while Hafer's office is trying to spin this as a cost-saving measure, the truth is that giving managers their full raises during an economic downturn would have produced a firestorm of criticism.

Hafer surely knows that. If she doesn't, the governor's silence - as opposed to praise or endorsement of her actions- is a signal that the treasury folks have fouled up.

It's time for the state treasurer to announce that for the good of the state, and because she believes all state employees should share the pain, those bonuses will be rescinded.

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