Sunday, February 25, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact: State workers' last raise for all 6 years ago

Unlike recent years, Florida leaders aren't talking about layoffs and pay cuts. This year, they're talking raises.

Gov. Rick Scott, facing a tough re-election bid in 2014, wants part of the state's projected budget surplus to go toward $2,500 raises for every public school teacher.

And he's offering bonuses for state workers of $1,200 or more.

Then there's Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, who filed a bill that would award 7 percent raises to all state employees.

"I think the guy or the woman who sweeps the floor and the folks who test the water for (the Department of Environmental Protection) deserve raises across the board," Rehwinkel Vasilinda told the Tallahassee Democrat.

"Those people haven't seen raises in six years," she said.

Has it been that long?

Pretty much.

The last across-the-board raise the Legislature approved for all state employees was a 3 percent raise on Oct. 1, 2006, a little more than six years ago.

"Across the board" is an important distinction. A few state agencies have given pay raises within their departments since 2006, Department of Management Services spokesman Ben Wolf said. The Florida Highway Patrol implemented a 5 percent pay increase in 2008, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued a 3 percent raise for its law enforcement officers on Jan. 1, 2011.

"Other individual employees have received pay increases since 2006 for exemplary performance," Wolf said.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda, who represents thousands of state employees working in the capital city, wants all workers to have a 1 percent raise for every year they did not get a raise, plus 1 percent going forward.

"A one-time bonus is not a raise," she said.

Florida leaders anticipate a budget surplus this year, but they're not sure how much will be on hand until estimates are completed in March. That has not stopped interest groups from already clamoring for funds after a yearslong dry spell.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, told the Tallahassee Democrat he will introduce a 4 percent salary hike for state workers.

Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, introduced a bill that would give state employees a 2 percent raise, and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, is co-sponsoring the measure in the Senate.

Two percent may be what's feasible, Rehwinkel Vasilinda said, but it does not go far enough.

"(Taylor) was doing what he thought was probable and that it would not be a radical departure than what's gone on the past six years," she said in an interview with PolitiFact Florida.

In his 2013-14 budget recommendations, Scott asked lawmakers to provide $315 million for agency heads to dole out performance-based raises to high-performing employees.

The Senate's budget chief, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has said he would rather address pay inequities at certain agencies than give across-the-board raises.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda's bill uses statistics to bolster the case for Florida workers getting a salary bump. Florida may be on track to be the third-most populous state, but in 2011 its state worker-to-resident ratio was the lowest in the nation. At 112 workers to 10,000 residents, Florida's ratio was 47.4 percent lower than the national average.

Florida also spends less money on its state government workforce than any other state. According to DMS, Florida's 2011 payroll expenditure per state resident was $37, which is 50 percent less than the national average of state government payroll expenditures of $74.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda claimed state workers have not had a raise in six years. She's correct that they have not had an across-the-board raise since Oct. 1, 2006.

The context of her quote makes it clear she was referring to raises for all state workers, so we rate her claim True.

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