“Reform” has been the watchword of Governor Brewer’s administration.
Medicaid Reform, in which the Governor froze enrollment of certain populations and implemented new co-pays and other private sector-style regulations to bring down the cost of government-subsidized health care.
Education Reform, where the Governor has raised the bar in terms of what’s expected of our students and schools, and is instituting greater transparency to help parents make the most informed decisions about their children’s education.
Economic Reform, a strategy by the Governor to unleash the power of the private sector to create jobs. Under Governor Brewer’s leadership, the state has limited new regulation and approved broad corporate tax relief and targeted business incentives – resulting in job growth that ranks in the top quartile nationally.
Now, with Arizona in its Centennial year, it’s time to reform and modernize our state’s personnel system. The Governor’s plan is about making the state’s workforce more accountable and efficient, more competitive and productive. It’s about cutting bureaucratic red tape so that the state can move quickly to hire the best job applicants. It’s about rewarding performance, while giving supervisors the flexibility needed to deal appropriately with the weakest-performing workers.
This personnel plan is new for Arizona, but has proved successful elsewhere. The state governments of Georgia and Florida similarly modernized their personnel systems more than a decade ago. Indiana did it just last year. Texas state government has already implemented a system where virtually every state employee is hired at-will.
In fact, the State of Arizona itself has examples of state entities operating without a merit system. The Arizona Department of Gaming and Arizona Office of Tourism have always operated with at-will, uncovered employees. These agencies are among the most stable and high-achieving in state government. There’s no reason the same personnel reform can’t be applied effectively throughout the rest of state government.
- Why do we need personnel reform?
While state government has many outstanding employees, there are some common frustrations with Arizona’s current system including:
- It takes too long to hire people
- There is no ability to reward top performers
- Disciplining and terminating employees can be difficult and time-consuming; it often discourages supervisors from appropriately managing and correcting inadequate performance
These frustrations create opportunities for mediocrity to become acceptable, and for high performers to be discouraged – neither result is good for the development of the kind of public sector workforce Arizona needs, particularly during times when budgets are being reduced.
- Why make this change now?
With the State of Arizona moving into its second century, it’s time that it had a modern and workable personnel system. With this legislation, seven personnel systems within the Executive Branch will be consolidated into one under the oversight of the Human Resources Division at the Arizona Department of Administration. This change will immediately make state government more nimble, efficient and – ultimately – more cost-effective for taxpayers.
- Will State employees automatically lose their covered status?
For the most part, the answer is ‘no.’ The legislation will, however, uncover all supervisors, employees in attorney positions, IT workers and employees who are Grade 19 or higher. All other covered employees will maintain their status, unless they voluntarily accept a change of assignment or voluntarily uncover. Going forward, all new State hires will be uncovered.
- Are there any covered state employees not impacted by this Reform?
Current and new employees in positions requiring full authority peace officer certification and employees employed as a Correctional Officer I, II or III and adult Community Corrections Officers shall remain covered unless they elect, with concurrence of management, to become an at-will uncovered employee.
Also, employees at the Department of Public Safety are not impacted by reform.
- How does a covered State employee benefit from going uncovered?
Uncovered employees are eligible for performance-based pay increases at any time, rather than waiting for the Legislature to approve an across-the-board pay hike for everyone. Also, employees that elect to become uncovered will be eligible for one-time retention payments in FY 2013. Additional information will be forthcoming.
- Will this proposal place covered employees at risk?
Modernizing the State’s personnel regulations will simply place most state workers on equal footing with workers in the private sector. State employees will be recruited, hired and rewarded based on their performance. Employees will be protected against coercion for partisan political purposes. Of course, state and federal law will still safeguard against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability or religion.
- Will there still be a grievance process?
- What about the state Personnel Board?