This new breed of Teabagger governors is really something special. We are fortunate to live in an era in which the political class is so committed to radical change. It's exciting. Fresh. Exhilarating. Behold one of the greatest visionaries, Florida's Governor Rick Scott. The ex-hospital executive and lipless chemotherapy patient faces an uphill battle against recalcitrant, entrenched public sector unions who stand in the way of Progress. I think he's up for the challenge. Don't you?
One of Scott's campaign promises was rapidly fulfilled on Monday when Florida's legislature passed a bill tying teacher salaries to student performance – particularly student performance on standardized tests. Teachers, regardless of seniority, may also be fired if their students' three-year average standardized test scores are judged unsatisfactory . Scott hailed the law as a way to reward the best educators in the state and to create incentives to excel in the classroom. It's a great idea. What's more, its passage bodes well for a number of nearly identical measures soon to be considered in the Florida legislature:
1. A pending bill proposes a performance-based pay system for police officers throughout the Sunshine State. If the crime rate fails to improve based on rolling three-year averages, officers can be fired. They'll all be working on year-to-year contracts without seniority benefits. Bonuses will be paid to officers who make the most arrests. Legislators believe that the new merit-based rules will encourage officers to follow the law scrupulously and suppress the crime rate for which police are responsible.
2. A proposed Senate bill will create an incentive-based salary structure for trash collectors. Since landfill space is an unwelcome expense (and rapidly diminishing resource) for municipal governments, the new rules will reward garbage men for completing their routes while using the least possible landfill volume. State Republicans believe that the law will encourage waste disposal workers to innovate and develop new means of reducing the volume of trash generated by Floridians.
3. Two radical new laws are experimenting with ways of altering the compensation structure of state firefighters. One plan, soon to be implemented in a pilot program in Bradenton, will pay firefighters for each fire they extinguish. Logically, rewarding firefighters for each fire they put out will ensure diligent work with no conceivable negative impact on the number of fires that occur. A separate program (currently testing in Opa-Locka) takes a different approach, terminating the contracts of firefighters who allow buildings to burn down or for fatalities to occur in fires. This makes sense, as firefighters are ultimately the people who control outcomes in this area.
4. House Bill 415 creates a pay-for-performance system for the Governor, State Supreme Court, and legislature. Governors will receive no salary if the state unemployment rate increases on their watch, which is fair inasmuch as Governors are tasked with determining unemployment rates. The court will pay judges by the case and terminate lower-level judges whose cases are overturned on appeal more often than average. Legislators will be paid on a similar per-bill system, with penalties for failing to meet a 500 bill per session quota.
5. Florida Gators football coach Will Muschamp, the highest paid state employee in Florida at $2,500,000 annually, will have his contract restructured to a complicated formula based on wins, time of possession, and successfully executed fake punts. Broadly speaking, Muschamp will earn roughly $100,000 per Gators victory, potentially saving the cash-strapped state over $1,000,000 annually.
6. In the event of a failed citrus crop, Florida Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam will receive no salary for that calendar year. A successful citrus crop is the responsibility of Commissioner Putnam and his office.
7. The Florida Department of Children and Families will face budgetary cuts for each fiscal year in which the percentage of abused children in the state rises above the national average at the state level. The Cato Institute described this incentive-based scheme as the best way to guarantee a safe childhood and home environment to as many young Floridians as possible, as the FDCF will have the strongest incentives to get out there and combat child abuse.
Gov. Scott has barely scratched the surface. If the potential of pay-for-performance government is Mount Everest, the recent restructuring of teacher compensation and tenure is just a few pebbles in your driveway! By understanding all of the relevant mechanisms of causality and assigning responsibility to the appropriate actors, government can not only operate more efficiently and save money but also provide the very best services to its constituents – without exception or compromise.