Since he has taken office, Governor Rick Scott has made no attempt to hide his apparent dislike for Florida’s State employees. First, he proposed State pension system changes that would require State employees to pay 5% into their own pension. Next, he posted on the web the actual salaries of individual State employees. Then, he proposed mandatory random drug testing of all State employees. Now, at first blush, some of these suggestions may seem like a good idea. For example, if private sector employees have to contribute to their retirement, why shouldn’t State employees? And, isn’t it true that government transparency is enhanced by the posting of State employee salaries? And shouldn’t Florida taxpayers have a right to make sure that their tax dollars are not given to State salaried people who are drug users?
What many may not realize, however, is that the State employees are in effect being punished by these maneuvers. All of the Governor’s proposals have been made under the guise of cost-saving because State employees make up a large sector of the Florida economy. However, what is often overlooked is that State employees are by far the lowest paid employees in the State. For the most part, people who work for the State have accepted excruciatingly low salaries in exchange for affordable health insurance and access to a retirement fund. By making State employees pay a percentage of their already low salary toward their retirement, their low salaries are only being reduced all the more. Publication of state salaries is not new. The salary of Florida’s Constitutional and elected officials has been widely disseminated and publicly available for years. However, such salaries are generally not publicized in connection with any individual, unless the individual decides, for example, to run for public office. Moreover, publicizing the salaries of individual lower level employees, who are NOT elected to their position, is new. How many people in the private sector would want their personal salaries published on the web for the world to see?
A news report in the Sun Sentinel today reports that the ACLU has stepped in and filed a lawsuit against Governor Scott’s drug testing policy. In response to the lawsuit, the Governor has suspended implementation of the program. Finally, there may be a small victory for the State employees. As a former State employee, I had the pleasure of working with some of the smartest and most dedicated people I have ever known. Most employees work long hours to make sure the job gets done correctly. The people I have known in State employment are dedicated, professional, and caring. Many in the private sector may not realize that it is the low paid State employees who are the backbone of many Florida government offices. Despite the fact that State employee positions are being slashed left and right, and despite that fact that numerous empty positions are never going to be filled, the State employees I know continue to keep their offices running smoothly and efficiently. Why would the Governor feel the need to keep punishing them?