Oregon’s Governor Tina Kotek recently made headlines by announcing that the state would no longer reimburse round-trip airfare for state employees. This decision has caused much debate and questioned the state government’s spending objectives.
As a result of the new policy, thousands of government employees will have to cover their transportation costs. Let’s dive deeper into the background of this decision and what it could mean for Oregon’s public servants and future budget.
Governor Kotek’s Bold Move: No More Free Rides for Public Employees
As per the reports, Gov. Tina Kotek has discontinued the practice of reimbursing state employees who work remotely for travel expenses. While telecommuting will still be an option, beginning September 1, employees will not be entitled to mileage reimbursement for business trips.
“We must ensure that state resources are used effectively to serve Oregonians and that our policies reflect the evolving needs of our workforce and the public,” said Berrie Leslie, the state’s top operating officer and temporary director of the Department of Administrative Services.
Legislators in March passed Senate Bill 853 with a goal not dissimilar to Kotek’s order. The bill has been introduced in the House. However, it appears to be unnecessary at this time.
Nevertheless, the bill’s sponsor, a Republican senator from Bend named Tim Knopp, made an exception for out-of-state workers who commute within 60 miles of Oregon’s border. Kotek’s order might include exceptions, but it’s not apparent. When contacted, the governor’s office was slow to respond.
According to Knopp, Kotek made the correct choice. “I appreciate the governor joining us in our effort to end this unfair and wasteful policy,” Knopp said.
Other highly compensated state employees have relocated to Florida and Texas and Willamette Week first reported on the reimbursement arrangement last summer, noting that they have been reimbursed thousands of dollars when they have been required to fly back to Oregon for their jobs.
Knopp introduced the measure, which had support from both parties and wrote to Kotek to urge her to end the practice. “I believe the current policy is neither fair nor equitable to hybrid and in-person state employees who don’t get compensated for their commutes,” Knopp wrote.
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Out of the state’s total workforce of 41,543, over 400 workers call another state home. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that 255 people from neighboring states call Oregon home. According to The Oregonian, the state employs people from 41 states and the District of Columbia.
Service Employees International Union Local 503 Executive Director Melissa Unger pushed back on legislators debating the proposal, arguing that it could have unintended consequences for labor contracts.
Unger expressed concern for those who acted following what they were informed was company policy in a text message to OPB. “We hope that this new policy does not change the expectworkers’ expectations were approved for remote work by their managers,” Unger said.
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3 thoughts on “Governor Kotek Halts Public Employees’ Return Flights”
I just have one comment. Anyone working in our government should reside in our state. I don’t believe that’s fair.
I’m in total agreement, If you’re a State employee you must live in the state that employs you !
Wow you won’t reimburse our public employees but you will waist state money on killing babies! You are a real pice of work!