Lack of pay raises in Scott's budget draws bipartisan criticism
House members got their first close look at Gov. Rick Scott's budget priorities Tuesday, and lawmakers in both parties faulted the Republican governor's unwavering opposition to any across-the-board pay raises for state workers.
They haven't had a raise in eight years. Scott is philosophically opposed to across-the-board raises and instead is offering $1,500 bonuses to workers tied to performance by them and their agencies. Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee, Scott's budget director, Cynthia Kelly, said Scott has "strong feelings" about the issue.
Two Republicans joined in the criticism. Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale, said that without even a cost-of-living pay adjustment, state workers actually lose buying power. Rep. Liz Porter, R-Lake City, made a pitch for a raise for state forestry firefighters, some of whom have battled wildfires in the western U.S. to supplement a salary that Porter said is barely above the poverty line (average pay is $27,000 a year).
Kelly emphasized Scott's call for $1 billion in tax cuts and his job-creation priority of a record $250 million closing fund to attract employers to Florida. Democrats were so vocal in their criticism that the panel's vice chairman, Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, repeatedly chastised them for making political arguments and not asking questions.
House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, was silenced twice by Boyd for using the term "corporate welfare" to describe Scott's business-friendly tax cuts. Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, used the word "charade" to describe Scott's education budget, in which three-fourths of a spending increase relies on higher property tax bills for homeowners and businesses.