State Politics

Pay cut for state workers studied

TALLAHASSEE — Florida taxpayers could save upward of $304 million if the Legislature cut every state worker’s salary by about 5 percent, according to an analysis produced by the state Senate.

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander confirmed Monday staffers have analyzed a variety of pay-cut scenarios in order to help legislators figure ways to fill a budget deficit that could reach $3 billion next fiscal year.

“It’s a challenging, difficult time,” said Alexander.

Under the pay-cut analysis, a 1 percent reduction to all state workers, including university system employees, would produce an annual savings about $60.7 million. A 5 percent cut would result in $303.4 million in savings.

Alexander, a Lake Wales Republican, said he wasn’t sure what pay cut percentage — if any — Senate or House members would favor. He said “more highly compensated individuals’’ might get a bigger pay cut. Alexander said a paycut of 10 percent is too high, and that he would be “more comfortable with a 5 percent reduction on salaries.”

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist didn’t appear to be in favor of the move.

“This is the first I’m hearing of it. And Im not favorably inclined to that,” Crist said. “I would hope we could go in another direction.”

At least 1,200 state workers make more than $100,000, the Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported last month. More than half of them work at the departments of health, transportation and corrections. Many are doctors, lawyers and planners.

University presidents earn anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000, with community-college presidents making far less.

Democrats and unions look ready to oppose the measure. Democratic Orlando Rep. Scott Randolph said state workers haven’t had a pay raise for three years, making a pay cut especially cruel in these tough times.

With layoffs and pay cuts occuring in the private sector at a far higher rate than government, Randolph acknowledged that state workers aren’t likely to leave their employment because of a pay cut.

“It’s bad to say that we’re going to take advantage of a horrible labor market to further deteriorate living conditions in Florida,” Randolph said.

Legislators should be credited for sparing state workers from big cuts and layoffs, said Doug Martin, a lobbyist for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 55,000 workers statewide.

But, Martin said, lawmakers need to consider eliminating tax exemptions and loopholes before taking money out of state-worker paychecks.

“State workers have shared the pain,” Martin said. “There are people who aren’t paying their fair share. It’s time for them to shoulder some of the burden.”

Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com

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