We're sensitive to the fact that state workers will continue to suffer a 3 percent levy on their salaries as their contribution into their pensions. The Florida Supreme Court recently ended the constitutional battle with a narrow 4-3 ruling upholding the new state pension law, which took effect in July 2011.
Had the ruling gone the other way, Manatee County's budget would have blown up with the government on the hook for repaying its 1,600 employees for past pension deductions out of their paychecks -- to an estimated tune of $4.5 million. The state would have plunged into an almost $2 billion budget hole. Both scenarios would have been devastating on essential public services.
The Florida Retirement System is quite generous to state employees, who up until 2011 had not been required to contribute anything -- unlike private sector workers.
Fortunately, though, several leading lawmakers are indicating the Legislature could consider a pay increase, given this ruling and the optimistic outlook on state revenue.
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Gov. Rick Scott's budget outline, unveiled Thursday, gives every public school teacher a $2,500 raise. For state employees working on growing the economy, he also recommends discretionary and variable bonuses based on favorable performance evaluations, with "outstanding" earning $5,000 and "commendable" $2,500. All other state workers who score at least a "satisfactory" are in line for a $1,200 incentive.
After six years without a raise, at least there's hope in the coming legislative session for some type of compensation.