Rewarding those with money-saving ideas is wise even for government

The state of Oregon has paid $500,000 in awards and bonuses to employees who are saving money or making money for the taxpayers.

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When government employees come up with innovative, money-saving ideas, those employees should be rewarded with more than praise. It's good business to put something extra in their paychecks.

This motivates employees to come up with more ideas and, perhaps more importantly, it spurs others to offer their ideas.

But this rarely happens because government operates under a blanket of rules, although often well intended, that tend to stifle creativity as well as innovation.

A rare -- and welcome -- exception is occurring in Oregon. The state has put in place a program that allows workers to collect bonuses for money-saving ideas.

In the past year the state has passed out $500,000 in bonuses and awards. That's a hefty number, which is why The Oregonian used the open records law to find out exactly who got the money and why.

Many of those who offered ideas received only praise in the form of a T-shirt or coffee mug.

Others received cash. An employee at the Department of Transportation received a $5,000 bonus for discovering more than $500,000 in fuel overcharges to the state. An employee at the Department of Human Services received a bonus of $2,732 for developing a spreadsheet that tracks benefits for people scheduled to go go off state cash assistance.

And about $390,000 was paid to 11 investment officers at the state Treasurer's Office. Yes, those are hefty bonuses -- ranging from $9,860 to $57,000 -- but when they are tied directly to performance they are usually a bargain.

The money was paid as a performance reward to investment managers who oversee the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, the Common Schools Fund and other portfolios totaling about $60 million billion, according to The Oregonian.

People often call for government to work more like private business. Well, that's exactly what Oregon is doing here. It is spending a little (relatively speaking) to save a lot. It is rewarding hard work, talent and innovation.

Now, that being said, it's important that The Oregonian or some other news agency or watchdog group keep an eye on how this program is being implemented. A few fuzzy-headed decisions could cost taxpayers plenty.

But, at this point, it seems Oregon is doing it right and taxpayers are ultimately benefiting.

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