The media, Tea Partiers, and Republicans have been on a crusade against state workers, denouncing high level bureaucrats with disproportionately high salaries and pension fund double-dippers. They argue it’s only fair to bring state worker benefits more in line with what’s offered in the private sector. Meanwhile, the average State of Florida public worker has been vilified in the rhetoric, turned into a scapegoat for all of Florida’s budget troubles.
The public sector IS NOT the private sector.
When times are flush, private sector employees are rewarded with raises, exorbitant bonuses and solid benefit packages. They are compensated for exceeding quotas and getting their job done. I have never heard of a DCF employee receiving an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii for meeting his quota. Public employees are lucky if a co-worker organizes a potluck holiday party in the break room during lunch.
Here is a sample of current State of Florida job openings with annual salaries:
Psychiatric Aid (Night Shift) $18,259
Gaurdian Ad Litem Case Coordinator $15,762
Juvenile Probation Officer $21,642
Wildland Firefighter $24,579
Correctional Officer $28,093
Child Protective Investigator $28,093
High School Math Teacher for the Deaf and Blind $33,250
Unlike the private sector, there is not much hope of these salaries increasing when the economy improves. State employees have not had a raise in five to seven years and Scott wants to permanently eliminate any annual cost of living increases. Now Scott also wants employees to pay a mandatory 5% of these paltry salaries into a retirement fund. If employees had any chance of a raise they might be much more open to this option. Currently, after 30 years of low pay serving the people of Florida, most employees accrue less than half their annual salary. State workers who have any hopes of actually retiring already pay into supplemental 401k accounts. Scott is changing the rules on many workers midway to late in their careers to suit his own needs. Many employees believe they have been contributing already, a trade-off of non-competitive, poor wages for benefits. The rug has been yanked from under their feet.
Czar Governor Scott’s absurd new budget proposal would also raise an employee’s family medical insurance premium to $9920 per year, thereby cutting employee’s pay by $7760. For many employees, that $643 per month would be over half their paycheck–gone. If that passes, many full-time state workers will be living in virtual poverty.
Let’s use an example. A Child Protective Investigator is called out day or night, often into dangerous neighborhoods and extremely volatile family situations, to save children who are being physically and/or sexually abused. The investigator’s judgment and experience (or lack of) can literally mean a child’s life or untimely death. If these proposals are passed, that college educated full-time public employee will bring home $322/week before taxes. After taxes, he would do better receiving unemployment.
The Juvenile Probation Officer would be raking in just over $200 per week before taxes. That is not a living wage.
Going against his own campaign slogan, “Let’s get to work!” Scott has plans to eliminate 7% of state government jobs, resulting in nearly 7,000 layoffs, with more cuts to come in the following year. So those left with a job would be doing twice as much work for considerably less pay.
Supporters say if state workers don’t like it, they can find another job. Perhaps they can, but someone must do these jobs, and many of these positions are hard to fill under the best of circumstances. Cutting wages and benefits will lead to a mass exodus of qualified, dedicated, and honest employees and increase corruption, complacency, and crimes against the citizens of Florida. With his sketchy history Gov. Scott will feel right at home.
And although Florida is in such dire straits, Scott is nearly doubling the budget of his own office to $635 million. This would go into his own private slush fund so he can dole out our cash to his big business buddies, money he claims is designated to entices business to our sad state.
Too bad no one is going to have any paycheck to spend. State workers will join ranks of the million others out of work and on the unemployment line…if there is anyone left to work it.