Fla. Senate president pushes for state worker raise

Government employees leave work at the Joseph P. D'Alessandro Office Complex in Downtown Fort Myers on Feb. 11, 2011.

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Government employees leave work at the Joseph P. D'Alessandro Office Complex in Downtown Fort Myers on Feb. 11, 2011.

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz on NewsMakers 03-10-13.

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz on NewsMakers 03-10-13.

TALLAHASSEE - The Senate president reiterated Friday that lawmakers will try to give state workers their first raise in six years, though he warned about the unpredictable nature of economic circumstances that could derail the plan.

Speaking at a luncheon of the Capital Tiger Bay Club, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the move to give state workers more money was bipartisan. Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, is one of its chief backers.

"Bill Montford and I are working together as partners to try to find the money to end the six-year drought and give state employees a raise this year," Gaetz said.

It's the first time in several years lawmakers have had enough projected revenue to fund at least the current year budget in the new fiscal year, without having to cut programs.

But Gaetz warned that because the federal sequestration has created a question about the economy, nobody can predict the state's finances.

Florida's state employees last got a raise in 2006 when they got a 3 percent increase in pay, though they did receive a one-time lump sum bonus payment of $1,000 in 2007. Their take-home pay, meanwhile, has dropped because of a new requirement since 2011 that 3 percent of their pay go into the state retirement system for their pensions.

The budget proposed by Gov. Rick Scott includes one-time bonuses for non-supervisory state workers. In addition to the $1,200 bonuses for most state workers, the governor also wants additional merit-based bonuses for other senior employees.

A bill filed in the House by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and in the Senate by Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, would give state employees a 7 percent raise. A bill by Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, in the House and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa in the Senate would provide a 2 percent raise.

Gaetz didn't say on Friday what amount he had in mind for a state worker pay hike.

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