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My job is intellectually demanding and enjoyable, but each year it gets a little harder to explain to my family why I keep doing it. I am in a awkward position, you see. I work for the state, but I have an "R" on my voter registration card.
I'm all for efficient government so I bit my tongue for many years. However, this last legislative session and the pathetic contract agreement our public employee union has negotiated with the state has finally sent me over the edge.
We Alaskans are constantly talking about an impending budget crisis while at the same time we are sitting on top of the Alaska Permanent Fund that is worth nearly $28 billion (that's billion with a "B" folks). We're like a millionaire standing in a soup line because he doesn't want to spend any of his money on food.
People in other states facing their own budget woes would love to have our "problem." However, it appears that the majority of the people in the state are content to let public services wither away as long as the permanent fund checks keep rolling and they don't have to pay any income tax. Over the past 15 years I've read countless e-mails from governors, commissioners and directors stating how valued I am as a state employee, but I need to do more with less.
I've also watched more and more of my co-workers leave as state employees' salaries have risen at less than half the rate of inflation during these same 15 years.
I have some advice for three groups of people in this state. 1) To the Legislature: Get a backbone and fix the budget problem before the impending train wreck happens. 2) To state employees: Get a backbone and vote "NO" on the contract our union negotiated with the state. It is the latest in a long series of contracts with poor monetary terms. 3) To the rest of the people in the state: Wake up to the fact that there is no "free ride. You get what you pay for.
I sincerely hope that my advice impacts someone in this state. If not then next year, while I'm enjoying my zero cost of living increase, will I be able to explain to my family why I'm still doing the same job? Maybe or maybe not.