Editorial: After 25 years, time to reshape state management structure

Published Jan 5, 2014 at 12:01AM

It’s been at least 25 years since Oregon state government has taken a hard look at itself, but it’s doing so now. When that look is done, the governor, lawmakers and others will, presumably, be able to reshape government so it provides services more efficiently and more responsively.

Thus the state’s Department of Administrative Services recently completed a survey of most managers in state government, about 3,400 of them. They were asked to describe why their jobs exist, what they do, how much education their jobs require and how much money they’re in charge of.

At the moment, Michael Jordan, head of DAS, told the Statesman-Journal newspaper, no single person in state government has all that information.

That’s understandable, we suppose. Think of all that has happened in the last 25 years. Technology alone has reshaped how many workers, for the state and nearly anyone else, do their jobs.

It may be that jobs that were vital 20 or more years ago are obsolete or nearly so today. Thus some jobs, at least as they’re now being performed, may disappear, though Jordan says it’s unlikely anyone will be put out of work as a result.

Pay is also an issue. Because contracts for many management-level jobs are not renegotiated every year, the state doesn’t know if it is underpaying some employees and overpaying others.

The study will provide that information, and salary adjustments are likely to follow, Jordan says. One goal is to provide equity across state government, so men and women in similar jobs in different state agencies earn the same salaries.

Meanwhile, the Service Employees International Union, which represents the largest group of unionized state workers, continues to argue that Oregon has too many managers. If that number goes down, it says, money will be freed up for more important things. This study could either confirm or debunk that belief.

Either way, the study is worthwhile. Business and government alike need to reevaluate themselves from time to time if for no other reason than to assure themselves that employees are doing the jobs that need to be done. And Oregon’s 25-year wait since the last evaluation is surely long enough.

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