by Max Brantley
How rich is it that oil heir Madison Murphy, a long-time leader of the starve-government movement, finds as a state highway commissioner that the state Highway and Transportation Department doesn't have A SINGLE STATE CAR too many for its administrative staff and office workers. The Democrat-Gazette reports today on the "crackdown" that followed its reporting on the state motor pool. In the story, we find lean-government advocate Murphy saying it is absolutely vital for the 135 central office administrators and other office help to have state cars because they are on call "24-7" to help with emergency road situations.
Those highway desk jockeys have to have a state car so they can hit the pavement to shovel salt on the Pig Trail at a moment's notice. Let us all put chains on our cars during the next blizzard and trek down to highway headquarters and see how many of those 135 made it to the office on a state snow day.
The highway department is constitutionally independent. It is used to telling governors and others to go to hell. But the intransigence of the state Correction and Community Correction Departments to trim their lavish state fleets is another matter. Here, Gov. Mike Beebe should have an impact and sooner rather than later. Many administrators in the prisons cite the on-call demands as thin justification. I'd like to see a report of 24-7 call outs of central office administrators with cars over the last few years. I'm guessing few have been roused. Even if they were, it would be cheaper for the state to pay their mileage on personal cars when called out. Lots cheaper.