Government Sector Dominates Florida Work Force, Study Finds

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: May 16, 2012 3:55 AM
Protest Signs

Credit: Sunshine State News Archives

Public employees constitute the biggest block of workers in 51 of Florida's 67 counties, a new TaxWatch survey shows. And in 40 counties, government workers make up two of the three largest employment groups.

The statewide study found 245 government entities -- ranging from airport authorities to school districts -- "involve significant amounts of both government involvement and funding."

With more than 250,000 employees, school districts employ nearly one of every 30 Floridians and represent either the biggest or second biggest employer in 61 counties.

County governments rank as either the first- or second-largest employer in 10 counties.

In the health-care sector government-owned medical institutions are the biggest workplace in seven counties, though the TaxWatch study notes that "even private health-care facilities are, in generally, highly dependent on government funding from programs like Medicaid and Medicare."

"There is no county in Florida that does not include at least one government entity in its top five largest employers," TaxWatch reported.

"Additionally, a public entity is the largest employer in over 75 percent of all counties."

While TaxWatch did not consider the total relative sizes of public- and private-sector work forces, the study's sample included 245 public agencies and 425 private companies.

"Putting aside the roles public entities are assigned to fulfill, it is important that Floridians understand that for many of the largest employers in their counties, their payrolls are paid by tax dollars," the study concluded.

Doug Martin, president of Florida AFSCME, a government-employee union, said the public sector has been the subject of "an all-out assault" by those who would "shrink services and middle-class jobs."

"These are good jobs with benefits, and the people in them usually have college degrees or some type of post-secondary certification. They're the backbone of the middle class," Martin told Sunshine State News.

Martin said there is "a lack of perception on the part of the public about what cities, counties and the state provide in services."

"Florida state government is the least expensive in the nation in terms of per-capita spending," he asserted.

But Chris Cinquemani, vice president of the Naples-based Foundation for Government Accountability, said, “Economic recovery is slowed when government is the largest employer in a county or region because government salaries do not represent new wealth. 

"Government workers are paid by tax dollars, and their spending simply recycles money that was already taken out of the economy in the form of taxes."

By contrast, Cinquemani said, "Private-sector salaries, funded by private-sector activity, create new wealth and a stronger economy.

"Florida counties should be exploring ways to increase private-sector employment opportunities, and rightsizing their government work force to promote a strong and growing local economy.”

The heavy influence of the public sector spanned from Florida's smallest counties to its largest.

In rural Washington County, for example, the biggest employers, by rank, were: Florida Department of Corrections (2), Florida Department of Transportation (3), Washington County School District (4) and Washington County government (5).

In Miami-Dade, the largest employers were: Miami-Dade Public Schools (1), Miami-Dade County government (2), U.S. government (3), Florida state government (4), Jackson Health System (7) and Florida International University (10).

Public officials, speaking on background, argued that there was no contradiction between public- and private-sector job growth.

"We all want more private-sector jobs, but not at the expense of the other," said one.

The Florida Association of Counties reported that $3 billion in revenue cuts -- and an unspecified number of job reductions -- have been made at the county level since 2007, and Martin derided legislative efforts to require pension contributions by public employees.
"The Leon County Chamber of Commerce estimated that [3 percent pension requirement] took $90 million out of the county," Martin said. "That's like creating a BP oil spill in one county."

The AFSCME leader said "six years of no pay increases in Leon County has led to abandoned storefronts and closed restaurants because you have a dwindling amount of money available for spending.

"The private sector is closely intertwined with the public sector," he concluded.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has worked to add more than 100,000 private-sector jobs since taking office in 2011, declined comment Tuesday. Press secretary Lane Wright said there had not been enough time to analyze the TaxWatch study's findings.

Read the full report in the attachment below.

Reach Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (8)

Robert Lloyd
8:43AM MAY 17TH 2012
>>Public employees constitute the biggest block of workers in 51 of Florida's 67 counties<<

We need an armed revolution. No ballot box can change the direction of this out of control freight train heading straight to hell. NO BALLOT BOX.
12:14PM MAY 17TH 2012
Go tell your story to the nearest State Attorney - I'm sure he'll be sympathetic, even to the point of offering you a nice padded home, or a very safe one made of reinforced concrete and steel.

If you were even half-way capable of such stupidity, I might even worry a little, but this is all just angry hot steam. Hate, hate, hate (coupled with racism) appears to be about all you know how to vent. That and constantly threatening others.
Robert Lloyd
8:21AM MAY 18TH 2012
>>Hate, hate, hate (coupled with racism) appears to be about all you know how to vent. That and constantly threatening others.<<

I am a free American giving my opinion. You are the name caller and hate anyone that gives an opinion NOT of the mass controlled media. As a socialist big government individual, your normal posts are merely smearing anyone you disagree with... and boring.
4:24PM MAY 16TH 2012
Oh yes, let's privatize everything - police, fire, schools, roads, etc.

I'm sure when you have to pay a toll everytime you go onto a road, or pay huge fees for your kids to attend school (market-based, for profit solutions) you'll be happier, even if a lot poorer and get a lot worst service. After all, what sane private industry person making $36,000/year wants to try and teach 30-40 (remember, exempt from class size) of your kids.
Voice of Reason
6:51PM MAY 16TH 2012
Voice of Reason
10:02AM MAY 16TH 2012
Have to disagree that Government Employees are 'parasites'. Rather, they are in fact, job creators. Many local businesses are dependent on Public Employees, who spend their money there. I have seen the effect of downsizing of Public Employees and the fact that many have not had a raise in 5 or more years as well as the 3% pay cut (under the guise of 'pension contribution' that in no way funds pensions) our illustrious Governor imposed. Having less money has equaled less money placed back in the local economy. This has actually caused many small businesses to close.

Surprisingly, most Public Employees are in favor of having a workforce based on needs. In my County, the Building Inspectors that were laid off understood why because of the dramatic drop in building permits. Other Departments that were becoming less needed downsized accordingly. Yes, it resulted in a lot of people losing their jobs, but we realized that it was necessary to not overburden our Taxpayers, which include Public Employees.

Many Government entities are also doing everything possible to work as efficiently as possible. Although many will passionately disagree, the private sector will never be able to be as cost effective over a long period as the public sector. The bottom line is profits. Private sector is profit driven and needs to answer to shareholders. Public sector is not profit driven and MUST answer to the taxpayers. I've seen quite a few instances where Government took back over functions from the private sector when it was demonstrated that they could for significantly less.

Of course, there is no doubt that a few agencies could be combined with others or eliminated without adverse effect to the Public. There are quite a few Counties, including mine, that have done this. We need to ensure, however, that any cuts are carefully made as the repercussions from carelessly made ones could cost us much more in the long run.
Robert Lloyd
8:45AM MAY 17TH 2012
>>Have to disagree that Government Employees are 'parasites'.<<

And I must disagree with you saying they are not.
8:35AM MAY 16TH 2012
"Get Special Interest Out Of Government" How many times have you heard that? The biggest "special interest" is government employees. It is the fastest growing industry that produces nothing but added costs and impediments to the economy. It is a parasite killing our country at all levels.

I liken it to the old 50's movie, The Blob. This alien creature that resembles a jelly-like amoeba. It enveloped living things and grew, and grew. It was unstoppable; it could not be killed; it just kept oozing slowly enveloping every living thing. Finally, they conquered the Blob by freezing it. I think that would work on government too. Freeze it, then take it down department by department, line by line. Give every single line item a test, by asking:
1 - is it necessary?
2 - can the private sector do it for less?
3 - Could we survive if it was eliminated?

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