The past five years haven't been easy for state government workers and teachers.
The ranks of state workers have shrunk about 10 percent. Training has been slashed by 25 percent. Seven out of every 10 state employees make less than $40,000 — putting them well below what the average employee in the private sector makes and near the bottom of state workers across the country.
The state's 172,000 teachers, meanwhile, have had tenure stripped away and are now evaluated based on student test scores, which next year could help decide if they get a raise.
"It's been a rough ride," said Ryan Druyor, a 30-year-old research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who lives in St. Petersburg. "Getting ahead working for the state just isn't done anymore. We're falling behind."
A budget surplus producing the first pay raises for state employees in six years has been celebrated by lawmakers as a chance to make up ground. Gov. Rick Scott, the Senate and the House have all proposed budgets with pay raises that can start to kick in this summer.
But as lawmakers haggle over budget details during the next two weeks, the pay proposals vary in shape and size, who gets them and for how much.
It's a legislative exercise that has left many workers feeling oddly conflicted. While obviously thankful that their pay is on the upswing again, they can't help but notice they aren't being treated equally.