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July raise suggested for state workers

(ran NS S editions of Tampa Bay & State)

A hearing officer says state employees should get a 4 percent raise July 1, rather than a later raise proposed by Gov. Lawton Chiles, a state workers' union said Wednesday.

The recommendation was short of the 8 percent raise the union sought, but Mark Neimeiser, lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, says it would rather have the raise sooner than later.

"(It) allows both the governor and the Legislature to do the right thing by state employees," he said.

Chiles was waiting for his budget office to determine the cost of the raise before deciding whether to approve it, spokeswoman Jo Miglino said.

If Chiles and the union disagree, House and Senate conferees will settle the differences as part of the state budget debate.

Public Employees Relations Commission special master Paul Thompson held a hearing Feb. 10 after talks broke down between state officials and representatives of 80,000 state employees.

Chiles proposed a $117-million pay package that included a 4 percent pay raise Dec. 1. The union wanted lawmakers to earmark $98-million to make it an 8 percent raise and put it in effect July 1.