Let's get to work! Or the distant drums of the coming class war

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If you're reading this right now, you're probably really poor and likely unemployed. Things aren't about to get much better any time soon, either, no matter how hard you stare at the dividend graphs on your pirated CNBC feed and wait for somebody's wig to fall off. Things, as they say, are tough all over. And people – even sane people, not nutjobs like this guy – are starting to get a little angry. You might have heard the recent rumblings involving a lawsuit against Florida's government and its refusal to raise the minimum wage. You may also have caught the rather rank wind of union-bashing (especially against public employees) and even seen some of the unions' troubled response. Well, today our friends at Progress Florida and Florida Watch Action took to the interwebs to draw a few comparisons between those eating the cake and those begging for crumbs. You could call it an apples-and-oranges issue – I mean who are we to be comparing politicians to people who actually work? – but it's a pretty sound argument. Here, read it for yourself and try not to get too depressed. Happy Tuesday!

TALLAHASSEE – While 188,000 Floridians await a constitutionally mandated six-cent increase in Florida’s minimum wage, the Governor, Speaker, and Senate President have announced six-figure salaries for a staff of former lobbyists, politicians, and political operatives.

Despite the fact that in 2004, 72% of Floridians voted to make the state’s minimum wage increase with inflation each year, the state has yet to take action.

“We are barely into the new year and our state leaders have already forgotten about hard-working Floridians who are trying to make ends meet in a sagging economy,” said Tamecka Pierce, with the group Organize Now. “Instead, they have gotten to work paying back political favors with our tax dollars.”

Gov. Rick Scott, Speaker Dean Cannon, and Senate President Mike Haridopolos have named former lobbyists, politicians, and political operatives to key staff positions that will draw taxpayer-funded salaries of more than $100,000-per-year.

Gov. Rick Scott has added at least seven staff at more than $100,000 a year to his inner circle, and the legislature alone has brought on more than 60 staffers at six-figure salaries as reported by The St. Petersburg Times on November 11, 2010. "More than 60 top staffers in Legislature drawing six-figure salaries"

According to the Times, Speaker Dean Cannon has increased salaries in his office by 1.5% and has at least six staff making more than $100,000.

A six-cent increase in the state’s minimum wage would only be a 0.8% increase for hourly workers, a little more than half of the increase in salaries in the Speaker’s office.

“While families in Florida are deprived a six-cent raise, state leaders are using our tax dollars to hand out six-figure salaries to their political buddies,” said Susannah Randolph, Executive Director of Florida Watch Action.  “The legislative session has yet to begin but it’s already business-as-usual in Tallahassee.”

It also pays to be a close friend of the Senate President.

Just days after the midterm elections, Senate President Mike Haridopolos handed out a contract to former state senator Carey Baker, with whom he served in the legislature from 2004-2008. Baker will receive $89,000 as a consultant to the Florida Senate and will make the equivalent of $175-per-hour as reported by the Palm Beach Post on January 10. "Senate prez paying former senator up to $89K as consultant"

“Our government balks at a six cent per hour increase for Florida’s working families, but our government leaders have no problem doling out six figure salaries to their political cronies.” said Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director of Progress Florida.  “That’s a $10 per month raise refused thousands of hard working Floridians while a political buddy of the Senate President makes $175 an hour.”

The Agency for Workforce Innovation, an agency under the direction of the Governor’s Office, is responsible for correcting the rate and insuring that working families receive the increase mandated by the Florida Constitution.

“We call on Gov. Rick Scott to give the working families of Florida the raise they deserve and instruct the Agency for Workforce Innovation to increase the minimum wage,” said Pierce.

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