You know a governor is up for reelection when he grooves many state employees a day off with pay for nothing.
Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ right-hand man, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, declared all of state government would close Thursday because of weather considerations. This comes on top of the legal Good Friday paid holiday.
Bad weather is no joke, and the tornado threat issued Wednesday night for 16 southeastern Louisiana parishes today certain merits caution. But the state does have 48 other parishes that at most might or did get a lot of rain (here in northwest Louisiana, some energetic precipitation Wednesday night softened to a drizzle by sunrise, going on and off since), which have faced much more severe weather before than didn’t draw paid furlough under Edwards or any other governor.
Further, local governments recognized bad weather headed their way, yet many judged the situation differently and some chose to remain open for at least part of the day. Simply, there was no reason to give every state employee in every corner of the state an entire day off with pay (state civil service regulations define these “office closures” as “special leave,” allowing most affected employees not to work with pay).
However, making a three-day into a four-day vacation from work is the kind of thing that endears some state employees to their chief executive that they could remember when election day arrives. By contrast, taxpayers should be upset, as (assuming 250 work days a year, but not including state police nor apportioning out part-time employees nor factoring that some employees worked today regardless) they paid out $22 million in salaries for no work performed.
A more judicious declaration of closures would have saved a portion of these taxpayer dollars. Yet that wouldn’t have served Edwards’ reelection goals. State employees are also taxpayers, and should join those not employed by the state in viewing with suspicion a decision apparently made more with politics than good government in mind, and making that skepticism part of their decision calculus come Oct. 12.