Staff Editorial

Consider dispersing state workforce

Union photo by Andy Hallman

Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand, left, introduces himself during a meeting on Medicaid Sept. 25 at the Jefferson County ISU Extension and Outreach office in Fairfield.
Union photo by Andy Hallman Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand, left, introduces himself during a meeting on Medicaid Sept. 25 at the Jefferson County ISU Extension and Outreach office in Fairfield.

Iowa’s first-term state auditor recently announced a novel idea that would address several important issues facing the state.

Auditor Rob Sand promoted his “Statewide Work, Statewide Jobs” initiative during his tour to several Eastern Iowa towns this week. The plan would allow some workers currently working in the Des Moines office to live in other communities and work remotely.

It’s a simple idea with myriad benefits.

Auditor’s office employees are often sent to outlying towns to conduct audits with the help of work-tracking software.

Sand’s plan might put some of those workers closer to the communities they serve, thereby saving the state government travel expenses such as mileage and hotel stays.

Workers who get to live where they want are likely to be more satisfied with their professional lives, and can also avoid the high living expenses of Iowa’s largest metro area. Employee choice also reduces the likelihood that workers will be lured away from important state jobs for higher-paying positions in Des Moines’ competitive employment market.

Remember that taxpayers in all 99 counties contribute to the salaries of state employees, but the economic stimulus of those paychecks is highly concentrated in the capital city and university towns. It’s never been fair, and modern technology gives us the power to start correcting the situation.

To be clear, this is not a major statewide economic development program. Sand acknowledged during a listening post in West Branch this week that only a small number of employees are likely to take advantage of the opportunity.

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Relocating even one employee to a small, slow-growing town may have a tangible impact — another paycheck flowing into the local economy, one more home on the property tax rolls, a partner who might fill a local job opening and children to populate the public schools.

Sand, a Democrat, was elected in 2018 on promises to expand the scope of the auditor’s office. He was the only challenger to unseat an incumbent in a statewide race that cycle. As auditor, he is promoting overall government efficiency beyond the basic accounting work the office has traditionally focused on.

“Statewide Work, Statewide Jobs” is the kind of creative solution Iowa needs to improve the performance of the state government and empower smaller communities. We hope other state departments will consider following suit.

Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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