Depending on whether one wants to accept the estimate of state Department of Transportation executive director Butch Brown or Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, MDOT wants to spend between $2.5 million and $1.4 million doing a makeover on their executive offices and meeting room.
To be fair, Hall and Brown usually can’t agree on just what that bright thing in the sky is at sunrise or on matters even more obvious. Republican Hall tried to fire Brown in the past, only to see his move overridden by his two Democrat colleagues on the commission.
Hall opposes the makeover of the executives suites in the MDOT headquarters building across from the Woolfolk State Office Building and says it could cost as much as $2.5 million. Brown says it’s more of a bargain at $1.4 million.
What about workers?
But by either estimate, the planned MDOT executive suite makeover is a waste of taxpayer money at a time when tax dollars are in short supply. How the elected commissioners and the well-paid Brown can face MDOT lower-level employees who need a pay increase to offset rising state health insurance costs is beyond comprehension.
Most state employees – excluding public school teachers and a few other select groups – haven’t had a pay raise in almost three years.
After two years of no raises, state employee pay hikes that took effect in January 2003 ranged from $600 for Department of Human Services social workers to $1,228 for DHS eligibility workers, Mississippi Alliance of State Employees president Brenda Scott said. In a few cases, state Department of Transportation engineers received $10,000 raises.
The union Scott leads represents less than 10 percent of the state’s approximately 32,000 state employees.
But the notion of sprucing up the executive offices of MDOT at a time when state employees are losing their jobs, when school district funds are cut to the point that teachers are buying school supplies out of their pockets and when sick people are dealing with Medicaid cuts is simply ridiculous.
Public doesn’t want it
Mississippi taxpayers don’t care if the carpet’s worn or the offices haven’t been painted or paneled for a while. The appearance of the interior of the offices of fatcat bureaucrats and elected officials like Transportation Commissioners Bill Minor and Wayne Brown don’t concern the vast majority of Mississippi taxpayers in the least.
Minor told The Clarion-Ledger that the makeover was needed to expand the commission’s meeting room. There are numerous state-owned venues within walking distance of the MDOT “Taj Mahal” that would accommodate larger meetings.
Again, Joe Taxpayer doesn’t care about paying for a larger meeting room for MDOT bureaucrats and the engineers, contractors and lawyers with business before the commission.
But as one taxpayer who logs about 35,000 miles annually on Mississippi highways, there are obvious concerns out there in the form of poorly maintained highways, endless construction projects, unkempt rights-of-way and other ills that do concern the taxpayers on a daily basis.
Forget fancy offices. Fix the potholes, pick up the dead dogs and deer, get the orange barrels out of the way and forget about pampering the bureaucrats.