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Gov. Rick Scott's shrinking Florida government workforce

In the spirit of generosity that marks the holiday season, Gov. Rick Scott will give state workers an extra day off this Friday.

How kind!

Scott issued an executive order shutting all state office buildings two days before Christmas.

Will anybody notice?

State employees have become practically an endangered species in Florida.

Year in and year out, they are sacrificed at the altar of a smaller, leaner bureaucracy at a time when politicians are forced to continually slash the size of the state budget to avoid raising taxes.

Florida has the smallest and lowest-paid workforce of any state in the country.

It's a trend that will continue in 2012.

In his recommended budget to the Legislature, Scott wants to eliminate another 4,500 full-time jobs — about two-thirds of which are now occupied by real people. He's also not proposing any pay increase for state workers, who haven't had an across-the-board pay raise in five years.

Some personnel cuts make sense: As the prison population shrinks, so should the number of prison guards.

The latest census data show Florida has 116 state workers for every 10,000 residents, while the national average is 217.

The cost of state personnel for every man, woman and child in the state is $38, compared to the national average of $75.

The typical state employee is more likely to be a woman in her early 40s, and she earns $34,119 a year. State workers on average earn 8 percent less money than comparable jobs in the private sector.

These figures and many others are in Florida's Annual Workforce Report, a detailed 82-page document from the state Department of Management Services.

To a taxpayer, the incredibly shrinking state workforce sounds great, until you want a bureaucrat to fix your problem, or you're in a hurry and want the line to move more quickly at the local driver's license office.

"Where the heck is everybody?" you mutter to yourself. "On a coffee break?"

The answer is no. They don't exist.

Scott's budget director, the low-key Jerry McDaniel, used the word "dramatic" to emphasize this point when he laid out Scott's spending priorities to a legislative committee two weeks ago.

Adjusted for inflation, the state next year would spend $2,554 per resident, 17 percent less than it did in the year 2000. Figures provided to the Senate Budget Committee by the governor's office show there are now 5.7 workers for every 1,000 residents, down from 8 workers per 1,000 in 2000, a drop of 31 percent during the same period.

According to state data, Florida employed many more people during the reign of former Gov. Jeb Bush, who once fantasized about a capital with buildings devoid of government workers.

"State employees have not received a cost of living increase in five years, yet they continue to selflessly serve the state," Scott wrote in a letter granting workers the extra holiday. "I would like to recognize state employees for their dedicated service."

A nice gesture, to be sure, but when the holidays are over, the state workforce will once again occupy its familiar place as an irresistible target for cost-cutting legislators.

Contact Steve Bousquet at sbousquet@tampabay.com.

Gov. Rick Scott's shrinking Florida government workforce 12/19/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011 9:38pm]
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