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Extra storm pay for one or all?

Hundreds of state employees worked long hours helping South Florida after Hurricane Andrew. Should they get a little extra for their efforts?

That question is stirring up trouble in Tallahassee.

It all started when the Florida Highway Patrol decided to give about 500 troopers who have been assigned to hurricane duty a special, 15-percent pay increase. The temporary increase, for unusual, extraordinary duty, will be added to troopers' base pay and is above and beyond any overtime payments.

As word seeped out that troopers were getting extra pay, other agencies that did hurricane duty wondered: Shouldn't their employees get extra money too?

"There were a number of people who went above and beyond the call of duty in terms of trying to help," said Mark Neimeiser of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents thousands of state workers.

"The union is going to ask that everybody who put in extra time and effort be given that same consideration (extra pay)," he said.

Others don't think extra pay is in order.

"We're not going to be pursuing the special pay increase. We just didn't feel like the nature of the duties warranted that, and we've never done that in the history of the organization," said Michael McHargue, director of the division of criminal investigation for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He said FDLE agents assigned to South Florida did an extraordinary job, but so did FDLE employees who stayed behind.

Under a change in personnel rules, agencies have the discretion to award the pay without getting approval from the Cabinet or the Department of Management Services. The Highway Patrol is the only department that has moved on a special pay plan.

The Highway Patrol will spend more than $500,000 on the pay increases for September and October, said Bill Snuggs of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

He said the Highway Patrol believes the federal government will reimburse the money through disaster assistance funds.

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