TALLAHASSEE, FL April 27, 2013
State employees would get a raise of at least $1,000 under a deal struck Saturday by House and Senate negotiators, as the final pieces of the state budget fell into place.
Under the plan agreed to by Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, employees making up to $40,000 a year would receive a $1,400-a-year raise, though it wouldn't kick in until Oct. 1. Employees earning more than $40,000 would see their annual salary boosted by $1,000, again beginning Oct. 1.
If signed by Gov. Rick Scott, the pay increase would be the first for state workers in six years. About 35 percent of state employees would also receive a $600 merit bonus.
"I think this is the best day for state employees in almost seven years," said Doug Martin of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
How to boost compensation for state employees after state revenues were squeezed by the Great Recession has been one of the issues facing lawmakers for weeks. Scott proposed a larger performance-based bonus, but no raise; lawmakers wanted to come up with some way to increase pay and have a merit component.
"Certainly, we would like to have more, but that's far better quite frankly than what we had anticipated," said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.
The House and Senate also agreed to give state law enforcement officers an additional 3 percent pay raise, with those who have served for five or more years getting 2 percent on top of that. Lawmakers are trying to stem the tide of officers leaving agencies like the Florida Highway Patrol.
"We've had an issue, particularly with the FHP but with some other state law enforcement as well, where we spend a lot of money training the troopers, and then they get hired away by local government because they're in high demand," Negron said.
The leaders also agreed to pay $5 million to cancel a contract with Xerox to upgrade all of state government's email systems to one unified platform -- $2 million less than the state's formal settlement with the company. The Senate agreed to a House proposal to take $5 million from state disaster funding to pay Xerox.
"We think that that's a fair position and fair settlement, and I feel comfortable that will resolve the issue," McKeel said.
The agreements essentially end a line-by-line examination of the budget spending items. But the budgetary fine print that specifies how certain portions of that funding can be spent is yet to be agreed to.