By Leisa Zigman I-Team Reporter
St. Louis (KSDK) - When was the last time you received a bonus? Three years ago? Four? Never?
A new database created by our sister publication, the Asbury Park Press, shows the federal government paid out a whopping $105 billion in salaries last year for most of its civilian workforce. And get this, Uncle Sam doled out $439 million dollars in bonuses as well.
The data turns conventional wisdom on its head.
An I-Team analysis shows private sector workers in Missouri average about $40,000 a year while federal workers make $66,000 a year.
In Illinois, the disparity is even greater. Private sector employees average $49,000 a year while federal workers average $80,000.
The Asbury Park Press created the new databank after receiving the salaries and bonuses through a freedom of information act request.
It shows in Missouri, federal workers received more than $6,000,000 in bonuses last year. Policy experts like St. Louis University's Matt Bodie want to know what they did to deserve it.
"The federal government and the country as a whole has been having some difficulties, it's not the time to say hey, we have all this extra money, let's give out a lot of bonuses," said Bodie.
The largest agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs the St. Louis VA Medical Center, gave out the most bonuses.
The data base shows John Wiese, a VA attorney, received the largest bonus; $33,000 on top of his $165,300 salary.
Mary Schieler, who works in accounting for the VA, received an $11,000 bonus, so did Rhonda Brown, who works in administration.
When the I-Team's Leisa Zigman asked what they did to earn the money she was referred to Public Affairs in Washington D.C. No one there responded.
The head of the St. Louis Veterans' Medical Center is Rima Nelson. She makes $154,000 a year and received a $6,500 bonus. She was brought in two years ago to help fix the sterilization debacle that temporarily closed the dental unit and surgery center. The facility has long been the target of congressional scrutiny and investigations.
When a new sterilization unit opened a few weeks ago we asked her about her bonus.
"I can't speak on behalf of the whole agency but I do know the VA really recognizes employees that work very, very, hard. But we all know those of us who work at the VA, the real bonus is to serve our veterans," said Nelson.
Tax payers we talked to out by Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis understood some bonuses. No one had a problem with the $62,000 bonus given to one of the trackers of Osama Bin Laden. Another bonus of more than $60,000 went to one of the top veterinarians in the nation. He helped develop the H1N1 vaccine in livestock.
A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget points out that federal workers are in the second year of a two year pay freeze.
A spokesperson writes: "The administration eliminated bonuses for all political appointees, directed agencies to adopt more rigorous personnel management...and set a cap to reduce spending on awards for career staff, saving taxpayers an estimated $200 million this year alone."
The databank covers about 70 percent of federal workers. It does not cover the department of defense, the Whitehouse, congress, the CIA, FBI, or military.
To test the Asbury Park Press databank, visit their website. You can search by a person's name, department, agency, or job title. You can also just plug in a state and all the information for that state will come up. The bonus is listed under the column marked "award."