Politics & Government

Florida senators gave staffers raises despite state worker salary cuts

After the Legislature decided to cut state-worker pay last year, Florida senators did the opposite, passing out $183,000 in annual pay raises and promotions to some staffers.

In all, 61 Senate employees who now earn $45,000 or more received pay increases. A few earned raises in May just as the Legislature prepared to vote on a 2 percent pay cut for all state workers earning more than $45,000 yearly.

Gov. Charlie Crist then vetoed the pay-cut language. Soon after, the Senate started increasing more salaries.

"Had those vetoes not gone in place we would have held the Legislature to the same standard as everybody else. So I don't know how that's a contradiction," Senate President Jeff Atwater said.

The Senate on Monday plans to propose another state-worker pay cut for next budget year. The House -- which raised some staff pay but cut other salaries -- unveiled its proposed budget Friday that called for a 3 percent salary reduction for all state workers.

State workers, who already felt that pay cuts were unfair, said the legislative raises make the idea of new reductions even tougher to swallow.

"We have undergone four years without raises," said Doug Martin, a spokesman for AFSCME, the largest state worker union. "It makes it difficult to take the measure of austerity if everyone isn't being treated the same."

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