**Note: although money is discussed in this entry, it’s not primarily about money. There are few things in this world that I need which I don’t already have. By that measure I feel very fortunate.
Chances are you don’t know me, but because of today’s political climate I’ll bet I could tell you one thing about me and you’d instantly think you did.
I work for the government.
Thanks to the modern conservative movement in America, this means you probably think the following:
- I couldn’t get a
- I’m not particularly bright.
- I’m lazy.
- I do just enough to get by.
- I have no incentive to do better.
- My job could be done just as well, if not better, by a high school dropout at a quarter the cost.
I’m not normally given to self promotion – I think modesty is a virtue. There are, however, a few things I’d like to say about myself which I hope will dispell a few myths. If you know me, you may know that I can sometimes be self-depreciating to a fault. I hope this will lend me a little credibility now…
The University of Florida has the second highest number of National Merit Scholars enrolled – behind only Harvard, is ranked 13th among public university undergraduate programs by U.S. News and World Report (2006), and I graduated from there with honors (my terrible writing notwithstanding).
I think my academic achievements suggest there might be a few things I could do, other than government work – if I chose to do so. Granted, there are reasons I chose to do what I do… knowing full well that pay was not going to be one of them. It has been claimed (although I’m not sure how reliable the source is) that Florida ranks 50th in average pay per state employee – so it goes without saying that I’m not exactly raking in the dough.
But again, I knew that coming in.
What gets to me, every now and again, is how little my efforts are appretiated by my employers – that’s you… the tax payer.
Despite three statewide productivity awards (awarded by an independent organization – Florida TaxWatch), more superior yearly evaluations that I can count on my fingers, and more lesser awards than you’d care to hear about… I’ve received exactly one merit pay raise in twelve years.
How can this be, you may ask? Surely it’s because I’ve overstated my acheivements. No, it’s because you and and the people you elected chose not to. There have been three or four years when merit pay increases were available at all… and then only a handfull were available to go around, statewide… so it’s a wonder I got one at all. I’m clearly an EXTREMELY rare exception in this way. Most of my hard working coworkers haven’t gotten a whiff of a merit raise the entire time they’ve been here (in some cases going on twenty years).
That leaves the pay increases doled out by the legislature, given to all of us. You see, the only way our pay goes up is if it’s approved by the legislature. There’s no such thing as a “cost of living” increase in Florida. Of my twelve years in state employ, I don’t recall an annual pay increase more than 2.5 percent. Often it’s less. One year there was no increase at all, and two years (including this year) there was a one time bonus paid (in lieu of a raise). By the way, there’s no such thing as bonuses in Florida (government that is) either… not in any regular sense. They only come when the legislature is looking to pay us off for not granting an increase. And what’s so nefarious about a bonus? It’s because it looks like more than it is. It’s not permanent. Next year, when we’re not getting a bonus, and our legislature grants us a generous 2 percent raise… that’ll make 2 percent in permanent raises in two years. The reason the legislature gives occasional bonuses instead of raises is because it decreases long term expenditures. If our raises aren’t even keeping pace with the cost of living in the first place, and the legislature is looking to save EVEN MORE money on our salaries… you know it’s not good for us.
So you ask me what incentive I have to do better, and I ask you the same thing. What incentive do I have to do better than just get by… the absolute minimum asked of me by my employer?
Other than a sense of pride or duty to those I serve, the answer is I don’t.
But again, I knew most of this going in. There are those of you who will reply, “alright, if you hate it so much go do something else!” The fact remains that money is not the only consideration. I like what I do. I like the opportunity it affords me; to make a small contribution to the public at large. Department policy forbids me from discussing many of the details of what I do, on a day to day basis, but I can say this: there are days when I can talk to a client and know I’ve made a permanent change in their life… for the better… and it’s hard to describe how gratifying it can be.
No, what troubles me is that you all apparently have so little regard for what we do. You paint us all with a wide brush, wet down with the occasional story of misdeed – sensationalized courtesy of your local “newstainment” investigative reporter.
You hold us in contempt and elect representatives who share your feelings, then profess surprise and outrage when one of us morphs into your self-fulfilling prophecy on the local news.
For all I care you can keep your damn money. A simple thank you would suffice.