Florida legislators who took a lot of heat for their inability to pass a state budget during the regular session will nonetheless be getting a pay raise on July 1. House and Senate members get $29,328 a year for their part-time work, plus free health insurance and expense allowances.
Their salaries will rise two percent to about $29,916 next month. At the same time, more than 100,000 state employees are being asked to wait for their pay raise until December. Critics say legislators should be tightening their own belts.
Unlike many of his colleagues in the legislature, Rep. Curtis Richardson says he's not a wealthy man, so he didn't want to give up his legislative pay raise this year.
“To forgo the raise altogether would be unfair to those few of us who do work and have to support families on the meager salary that we get,” says Richardson.
The raise of just under $600 a year is less than lawmakers could have taken, but they're getting it in July, after approving a budget that makes the rest of Florida's state employees wait until next December for their two percent raises.
Critics say it's not fair for the legislators who sit in this chamber to get their raise six months sooner than other state employees.
Union spokesman, Doug Martin, says state workers must also eat a 16 percent health insurance hike, which will wipe out more than half the raise for state employees making less than $30,000 a year.
Martin says state employees are glad they got a raise at all in this tight budget year, but legislators definitely gave themselves a better deal.
“They don't have their raises affected at all by the skyrocketing cost of health insurance premiums that affects not only all public employees but also most private sector employees who have health insurance,” says Martin.
Rep. Richardson says he understands why the raise issue would anger some state employees who feel like they've taken it on the chin in recent years, and he'd support an effort to delay legislators' raises until December, but the proposal isn't likely to fly with the majority of his colleagues.
Coconut Creek Rep. Ron Greenstein has filed a bill to postpone the legislators' pay raise until December. He plans to bring it up in the special session that begins next week.