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State Employee Pay Raises Bill Passes First Senate Panel

MGN Online

A bill seeking a three percent pay raise for state employees unanimously passed its first Senate panel Monday. And, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are mulling over the issue as well.

Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) is the author of the measure that authorizes the pay increase. Her measure changed Monday requiring state workers must log at least 20 hours a week to be eligible for the pay hike.

As in years past, Tallahassee Democratic lawmakers, Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda and Alan Williams have filed similar bills in the House—doubling that three percent increase.

Williams says he’s hopeful that some sort of increase is in this year’s budget. He also hopes, if that’s the case, the Governor sees state workers increases as a priority, as well as his billion dollar tax cut package.

“At the end of the day, we cannot have an $80 billion budget, and not be able to give pay raises to state employees, but talk about giving almost $1 billion in tax cuts,” he said, speaking to WFSU. “I think we can do both. I think both deserve the proper support, but at the end of the day, when we give pay raises to state employees across the state, it’s really economic development. It’s a stimulus because they then will go out, spend more money on goods and services for their families, that will then support their local businesses.”

Some Senators have already expressed their support for the pay raises, including Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater). He says while it’s not in his wheelhouse, he’ll continue to pursue pay raises for state workers.

“I assure you I’ll fight for that,” he said, speaking to reporters. “I’m very committed to that.”

There are rumors circulating that the House and Senate Budget Chairs, Richard Corcoran and Tom Lee, could be working on developing a pay raise package. And, Senate President Andy Gardiner says he’s still amenable to the pay raise idea—though he urged caution.

“I don’t know if it’s systematic as much as…you know, I said back before Christmas, I said if there’s a will to do that, I would be interested in the salary issue,” said Gardiner. “But, again, we have to kind of see, just like the tax package, you have to go through every agency, decide if we have a budget that we’re comfortable with, then you really start talking about that tax package.”

As for Governor Rick Scott, he has his own ideas on state employee pay raises.

“I think people ought to be paid fairly,” said Scott, speaking to reporters last week. “We have state workers that work very hard here in Tallahassee and all around the state. What I’ve proposed is that we have bonus plans tied to performance. I’ve always believed that.  I’ve believed that in business.”

Last year, both the House and Senate had agreed on pay raises for certain employees. That included a $2,000 increase for forestry firefighters, which Governor Rick Scott vetoed. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose agency oversees that area, had expressed disappointment, saying that this year, he’ll continue to fight it.

“They are deserving of this pay increase,” said Putnam, about a month ago. “They put themselves at risk to protect lives and property in our state, and I hope we can work that through that process and to a successful conclusion this year.”

And, the firefighters pay bump is expected to be included in this year’s budget.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.