Last week I had a story ping into my inbox that immediately set my fiscally conservative tail feathers into a spin.

As way of background: My money-wise sensors had been over-stimulated by stories of Arkansas legislators taking tax-paid helicopter rides, chauffeured trips for hundreds of miles to the Capitol and the expenditure of nearly half a million dollars of our tax dollars on Live
Streaming equipment that was unused.
So when the “You’ve got mail” voice chimed and I opened this tidbit of Intel, I felt a little like that cartoon character with smoke streaming from both ears:

The Arkansas House of Representatives has hired former Democrat State Representative Gregg Reep for the right handsome sum of $85k annually to be a liaison between the incoming freshmen and the Governor.

Yep, you read it right: $85 K.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I immediately did the right thing, the same thing I continually encourage folks around the state to do when they hear something that set their own alarms to buzzing – GET THE FACTS.
But NOOOO I commenced instead to venting on my poor husband, Mike. Please keep him in your prayers because that is usually my first sounding board. After several minutes of decompressing in this hyperbolic chamber of matrimony, I dashed to my trusty computer and googled (don’t you love how we have turned a proper noun into a verb) the name – Gregg Reep – and found very little concerning the newfound hearsay about his position.

Then I turned to my closest friend list, calling people I know that are most likeminded to justify my rant of this latest apparent irresponsibility and lack of transparency by government.

A few placated me, but thankfully, most encouraged me to dig a little deeper. Wait, wasn’t that my advice? So that’s exactly what I did.

I called my state representative and asked him about this latest hire. He encouraged me to go to the source of the decision which would be the Arkansas House Chief of Staff, Bill Stovall.
I called Mr. Stovall, who was gracious and helpful, and these are the actual facts he shared with me about Mr. Reep’s hiring:

The position Mr. Reep is in has actually been around for several years and in fact was at one time two positions.
That Mr. Reep’s salary of $85K (which will be prorated for his time serving) is precisely what the other two positions had made, so in
essence $85K has been “saved.”

In the process, I also learned the Arkansas House has gone from 24 full time jobs in 2001 to currently 19 and has even trimmed its budget by $115K for the 2011 session. Hmmm. But what happened to my initial overreaction?
How can I still remain in a state of outrage when facts don’t justify it?

In short, I’ve learned some valuable and hopefully enduring lessons. First of all, knee-jerk reactions to information are not productive and may not even by justified. We live in a world of instant (and often anonymous) communication today where credibility is at a premium. Secondly, I’ve learned to practice what one preaches by performing one’s due diligence of actually gathering hard facts before engaging mouth.

So here’s to the Arkansas  House- Kudos for reducing your budget (and thereby our expenditures) while finding well-qualified people to reduce the size of government and for taking steps on different levels to help our beloved state of Arkansas to become a more fiscally responsibly place.

We must all remember to seek out and get our hands firmly around the truth before needlessly and mistakenly throwing legislators, administrators and public service staff under the bus.