Lawmaker Wants Mortgage Settlement Funds For State Worker Raises

Oct 22, 2012

The Florida Attorney General’s office is engaged in a tug-of-war with the state legislature over which group can decide how to spend a $300 million mortgage settlement, but one local  state lawmaker wants to divert part of the settlement to pay raises for state employees.

The $300 million is Florida’s share of a $25 billion dollar settlement with five of the nation’s biggest banks involved in the foreclosure crisis. And Tallahassee state representative Michelle Rehwinkle Vasilinda wants the legislature to put aside a portion of the money for state employee pay raises.

“We have the lowest paid workforce among the states. We have the leanest state workforce among the 50 states, and that comes in a state that’s extremely complex," said Vasilinda.

The Tallahassee Democratic Representative  says she believes it’s in the legislature’s power to decide how the mortgage money is spent, but the Florida Attorney General’s Office says it has the power to decide and wants the money to go to housing programs.

Meanwhile, a national housing advocacy group says less than a half of state that received mortgage settlement money have used the funds for their intended use.

Vasilinda says the state's workforce has shrunk in recent years, and employees have taken on more responsibilities without being compensated for them. She also says that if the state won't allocate a seven-percent pay increase through the mortgage money, it should come through an an expected $700 million general revenue budget surplus.

Florida Attorney General's Office Spokeswoman Jen Meale says, "we remain in discussions with the Legislature on how best to direct the $300 million in accordance with the settlement agreement."

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