Editorial: Oregon’s stupidity ratio

The Oregon Legislature proclaimed in 2011 that 11-1 is the right ratio of employees to supervisors in state government. Gov. John Kitzhaber signed it into law.

And now that law — based on the really stupid idea that there is a right ratio — is producing really stupid government.

Where did the 11-1 goal come from?

Unions backed it. The law was supposed to improve state government by thinning out “unnecessary and counterproductive layers of excessive management.”

Did the state carefully research what the right ratio was for Oregon?

Nope.

It was picked because Texas used it. That’s better than picking a number out of thin air, but not by much.

It’s been three years since the first iteration of the 11-1 law hit Oregon, so what has happened?

The Legislative Fiscal Office reported this month that problems have happened. The report outlines five.

1. The Department of Administrative Services’ decision to round numbers creates significant errors. “Without the rounding, only slightly over half of the agencies certified as having met the” ratio actually achieved it.

2. The law has a way of encouraging agencies to achieve only the minimum improvement in the ratio every year, because doing more than that would make it harder for them to hit next year’s target.

3. Anecdotal information and reviews of documents suggest that individuals are being reclassified into new positions and simply continuing to be compensated at the old rate.

4. There is no information available to show if the changes actually improved agency operations.

5. There is no penalty if agencies don’t hit the required goals.

We’re all for cutting fat in state government. But there is no magic ratio of employees to supervisors. It depends on the employees. It depends of the supervisors. It depends on the nature of the work they do.

This law did not improve state government. What the law did do is push the state toward a higher ratio of union-represented employees and a higher ratio of stupid laws.