Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

More than 60 top staffers in Legislature drawing six-figure salaries

TALLAHASSEE — To help shrink state government, the new leaders of the Legislature have brought in a stable of advisers at six-figure salaries.

In the House, incoming Speaker Dean Cannon has given salaries of at least $100,000 to 28 staffers. In the Senate, 33 will earn six figures under incoming President Mike Haridopolos.

Both leaders say the pay is justified for their skilled workers, yet the numbers stand out in a state where average wages are stagnating, One million Floridians can't find work, and Gov.-elect Rick Scott wants to eliminate up to 6,000 state jobs.

Haridopolos and Cannon, who must fill a projected $3 billion budget hole, said costs were trimmed elsewhere in the Legislature's budget. Haridopolos, for example, has consolidated numerous jobs with a stated goal of cutting $1 million from the Senate's $35.5 million budget.

"We've got to lead by example," said Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.

The payroll in the Senate president's administrative office exceeds $1.1 million — about 25 percent more than the wages in the speaker's office across the hall in the Capitol. Haridopolos' chief of staff and general counsel, Stephen MacNamara, is the highest-paid legislative staffer, earning $175,008.

Still, Haridopolos has trimmed his own administrative office payroll by 12 percent in a year when state employees have endured the fifth consecutive year without a cost-of-living increase.

Cannon said the House overall is saving money because of staff reductions, many of which took place under his predecessors. The House budget has dropped 12 percent since 2007, while the total state budget has dropped 2 percent.

"We've done what a lot of private sector companies have done," Cannon said. "We've given people raises where they were merited and let people go when it was warranted."

While Haridopolos' staff reductions and penny pinching have received media attention, Cannon's personnel moves haven't attracted the same level of scrutiny until now.

Public records show Cannon has increased salaries in the speaker's office by 1.5 percent. The top salary is $147,865 for chief of staff Mathew Bahl.

Bahl was director of Cannon's Select Policy Council on Strategic & Economic Planning during the 2010 legislative session. He was director of the majority whip's office in 2007-08 under then-Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and ran the successful 2004 House campaign of Republican Trey Traviesa, R-Tampa.

Others in Cannon's office:

• Lynn Cobb, deputy chief of staff for policy. Cobb will earn $121,630, a 4 percent increase from a similar job she held under Speaker Larry Cretul. Cobb retired in 2009 as director of the House Education Council.

• Michelle Davila, deputy chief of staff for administration. Davila will earn $110,205, which is a 16 percent increase from her previous job as director of operations under Cretul.

• Todd Reid, deputy chief of staff for process. Reid, the former director of the House Majority Office, will earn $108,673.

• Kirk Pepper, director of external affairs. Most recently Pepper was the deputy campaign manager for Bill McCollum, who battled Scott in the Republican primary. Pepper will earn $100,299 under Cannon.

• Katie Betta, director of communications. Betta will earn $100,300 in her first job in the Legislature. She previously was communications director at the Republican Party of Florida, where she earned $85,000.

Betta replaces Jill Chamberlin, who earned $105,000 in the same job under Republican Speakers Marco Rubio, Ray Sansom and Cretul. Chamberlin retired this year after more than three decades in state government.

Cannon said it was unfair to compare Chamberlin and Betta. The speaker's office is expected to absorb some of the communications duties previously handled by the majority office.

"Katie is one of the sharpest, hardest-working and talented people I've encountered," Cannon said. "She's worth more than what she's being paid."

Doug Martin, a spokesman for the state workers union, said lawmakers should consider raises for state workers, too.

"There are a lot of hard-working people who serve the state of Florida who are also deserving," Martin said. "We hope the Legislature provides the funding and the flexibility so that other agencies can likewise reward their hard-working employees."

Cannon and Haridopolos both voted to cut worker pay in 2009, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist. After the veto, Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, approved some of the 61 pay raises for Senate staffers.

Under Speaker Cretul, R-Ocala, 44 House staffers received pay increases. Unlike Atwater, though, Cretul demoted and cut the salaries of other staffers so that the bottom-line House payroll fell by about $877,000.

Aside from two secretaries in the speaker's office, the average salary in Cannon's office is $102,400, up from $100,300 under Cretul.

Times/Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report. Michael C. Bender can be reached at

More than 60 top staffers in Legislature drawing six-figure salaries 11/11/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 12, 2010 7:48am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida Transportation Commission nominates three finalists for DOT secretary


    The short-list for Florida’s next transportation secretary is out, and the three nominees include current and former department employees along with a member of the Florida Transportation Commission, the board which selects the nominees.

  2. Greek ex-prime minister hurt as letter bomb explodes in car


    ATHENS, Greece — Former Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was injured after a letter bomb exploded inside his car in a central Athens on Thursday in an attack that also left two Bank of Greece employees wounded.

    Greek police experts search for evidence at the scene of an explosion site in Athens, on Thursday. An explosion inside a car in Greece's capital wounded former Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Thursday, police said. His injuries were not considered to be life-threatening. [AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis]
  3. Rick Scott signs package of tax breaks

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott signed a tax-cut package Thursday that — while vastly scaled back from what he wanted — eliminates the so-called "tampon tax" and offers tax holidays for back-to-school shoppers and Floridians preparing for hurricane season.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a tax cut package that will cost state coffers $91.6 million during the upcoming year. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  4. Pentagon inquiry blames ISIS for civilian deaths in Mosul strike


    WASHINGTON — A U.S. airstrike in March killed more than 100 Iraqi civilians by inadvertently setting off a large amount of explosives that Islamic State fighters had placed in a building in Mosul, according to a long-awaited military investigation made public on Thursday.

  5. Man who fired at Temple Terrace officer is shot in leg, police say


    TEMPLE TERRACE — A man shot by a Temple Terrace Police officer has been released from the hospital and booked into jail on an attempted murder charge.

    Jordan Arthur Bowie, 24, of Tampa was arrested Wednesday and charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement after police say he shot at a Temple Terrace Police officer during a traffic stop. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]