Gordon Monk retiring Aug. 8
“This job is the most difficult job in the Legislature and the Capitol, because we work for the House and the Senate. So I have 144 bosses.” Gordon Monk, legislative fiscal officer who is retiring Aug. 8
After 33 years in state government, Legislative Fiscal Officer Gordon Monk said Tuesday that he is retiring.
Monk said a contentious legislative session that began with 18-hour days and ended with budget battles convinced him it was time to go.
“The workload’s increased. But (also the) pressure, stress, infighting among legislators. It’s really difficult when you have Republicans fighting each other,” Monk said.
The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget plans to name a temporary replacement for Monk on Monday. Monk’s last day will be Aug. 8.
Though not as well known to the public as other political figures, the role of legislative fiscal officer is important to the workings of state government. The Legislative Fiscal Office analyzes the governor’s revenue and spending proposals for the Legislature.
Fiscal notes estimating the financial impact of proposed laws are the office’s most visible work. The notes can doom legislation if its impact is too high.
Monk said the Jindal administration has asked for more fiscal note discussions than any other administration.
“I’m proud that we’ve never swayed from putting out notes we believe are accurate and precise,” he said.
Monk began as an intern for the Fiscal Office in 1979 and became fiscal officer in 2005, when Johnny Rombach resigned after an audit claimed he gave himself thousands of dollars in extra compensation.
Rombach’s exit was dramatic. Monk’s tenure has been quiet.
Monk, 55, said he purposely set out to be low key.
“My view of my job and my office’s role is we work for the Legislature. We work for the members. Our role is to provide information and let them go out and make the speeches and headlines,” he said.
State Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro and sponsor of the state budget, said he had a good relationship with Monk.
He said Monk, who is paid more than $150,00 per year, always devoted the time needed to do his job.
“It’s critical that we have a fiscal officer that is independent enough ... and I think Gordon’s been careful to try to do that. He’s set a high standard,” Fannin said.
A native of Leesville, Monk was a graduate student looking for a way to pay the bills when he was given a choice between working for the Legislative Fiscal Office or the state Department of Natural Resources. He said he chose the Fiscal Office because the Legislature interested him. Six months later, he moved from intern to full-time employee.
Through the years, Monk rose through the ranks of the office. Along the way, he and his wife, Debbie, welcomed triplets, Meredith, Donald and Steve, with the help of modern medicine. The children now are 19 and attending college.
Monk said he missed celebrating Spring Break, Mardi Gras and Good Friday with his family because of work. His wife and daughter traveled to Italy while he reported to the State Capitol, usually clocking in at 6 a.m.
“I don’t even have a passport,” Monk said.
The pace accelerated this year, when Gov. Bobby Jindal pushed through the majority of his education package before Easter. Legislators worked until midnight on bills.
Employees of the Fiscal Office must be present during session to answer questions about bills. They often testify at committee meetings. The office’s chief economist, Greg Albrecht, recently clashed with the governor by depicting Louisiana as still struggling to recover from the recession.
“This job is the most difficult job in the Legislature and the Capitol, because we work for the House and the Senate. So I have 144 bosses,” Monk said.
He said he plans to remain retired for six months to a year in order to travel, work in his yard and tend to home projects. After that, he said, he probably will return to the workforce, although not at the State Capitol.
Monk said he hopes his successor is someone from his office.
“We’re the only legislative staff that goes down, sits at a (committee) table and makes a recommendation. The House and Senate staff don’t do that. Our job is to be fair, factual, be the person in the middle that has no bias,” he said.