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Turbiville Shows Two Left Feet in Dance Around State Worker Merit Pay Question

Last updated on 2016.12.18

At the District 31 crackerbarrel in Spearfish yesterday, an audience member asked whether the Legislature will base bonuses for state workers on merit and limit them to the best 20% of employees the way HB 1234 does to teachers. Even after moderator Bryan Walker's clarification of the obvious, watch Rep. Chuck Turbiville (R-31/Deadwood) totally miss the point:

"I don't think there's anybody that is going to have to... I don't think there's any department that will issue bonuses based on performance evaluation," says Rep. Turbiville.

And why on earth not, Chuck? I mean, I know you've said you don't think merit pay can work. You repeated that you don't think it can work. But you voted for merit pay on the House floor less than two weeks ago.

Rep. Turbiville says his vote was nothing more than procedural, an effort to hurry the bill over to the Senate for further negotiation. Rep. Turbiville and Rep. Romkema are clinging to the idea that crying "the process" can absolve them of their votes for bad policy that they won't support in other areas. In Rep. Romkema's words, voting for a bill "doesn't mean an endorsement of that particular bill."

In other words, legislators votes mean nothing, and we can't hold legislators accountable for them.

The very next crackerbarrel question asked the District 31 legislators what evidence they have seen that merit pay works:

The responses:

  1. Rep. Romkema: none.
  2. Rep. Turbiville: none.
  3. Sen. Nelson: one study says it works, one study says it doesn't... but don't worry, because "a lot of the merit pay part of the original bill is no longer there." The latter statement is inaccurate: every word of the merit pay provisions in Governor Daugaard's original proposal (Sections 7–15) is in the current version of the bill (Sections 17–25).

Voting against the merit pay in HB 1234 should be simple: no one is considering merit pay for state workers, because there is no clear evidence that merit pay works. No one should be considering merit bonuses for public school teachers.


  1. larry kurtz 2012.02.26

    These guys are poised to sell their holdings in LawCo to coal or oil field trash and flee for somewhere else: all three of these lawgivers have failed at marketing Spearditch, Deadwood or Lead to diverse populations and are making their county safer for white people.

    It's just that simple.

  2. larry kurtz 2012.02.26

    A gaming syndicate has recently purchased Trucano and Son, the longtime slot machine management monopoly: it's over for Ma and Pa in the Gulch.

  3. Troy 2012.02.26

    Merit pay exists in state government and is used all the time. It is sometimes utilized in one time bonuses and sometimes in movement within grade above the general wage increase.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.26

    Then why not on these bonuses, Troy? And do current state government merit pay practices produce better performance?

  5. Troy 2012.02.26

    Every situation requires different responses. I don't have all the facts on the rationale but I suspect it to address the reality wages have been frozen for three years which is different than for teachers.

  6. Sam Peil 2012.02.26

    Let us propose HB98765 where legislators can cast a Hmph vote because they want to send it on without committing their support or opposition. HB98765 is legislation that celebrates "the process." I will lovingly refer to this bill as "BSbackwardcounting."

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.26

    "don't have all the facts"... yeah, that pretty much summarizes every argument I've heard from Pierre in favor of merit pay.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.26

    Ah, but wait: so if we can find districts that have frozen teacher pay, can we justify allowing them to skip merit pay for now and simply use the HB 1234 money (if it's ever appropriated) to raise base pay for everyone?

  9. Joel Rische 2012.02.26

    I challenge the assertion that merit pay "happens all the time" in state government. I don't remember reading about it in the employee manual, and I've never heard of anyone getting a raise that wasn't either voted on by the legislature or due to a promotion to a new position at a higher pay scale. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but happening all the time would be a stretch in my estimation.

  10. Curtis Price 2012.02.26

    From KOTA's story on yesterday's cracker barrel (that it is):
    "Legislators spoke up in support of the bill and commented on how much work lawmakers have put in to **perfect&& it."
    So that's what they call it now.

  11. larry kurtz 2012.02.26

    Good eye, CP. Cracker translates poorly in the chemical toilet: 'wasicu barrel' would have pretty much covered it.

  12. Michael Black 2012.02.26

    My uncle had an employee incentive program. The poster went something like this: "Get to work or be fired!"

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.26

    Wow: that sounds like some of my past students who fail the test, then contend they deserve to pass because they worked really hard. On my final exams and in public policy, there is no effort grade. You pass or you fail. HB 1234 does not deserve to pass.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.26

    Michael, that's the assumption under which I've always worked!

  15. larry kurtz 2012.03.02

    Three Dog Night at former Slime Plant, 8:00 tonight: don't forget to wear Depends®. This message brought to you by the Professional Organization Of Pubbies.

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