Florida Senate President Bill Galvano pledges 'meaningful' pay raise for state workers
Senate President Bill Galvano is backing up his “It’s on the table” pledge to state workers seeking a pay raise.
Galvano told the Tallahassee Democrat on Tuesday the Senate will include a “meaningful” pay increase for state workers when it begins budget negotiations with the House.
“The Senate budget, scheduled to be released by the end of the week, will include a meaningful investment in across-the-board salary increases for our hardworking state employees,” Galvano said.
Last month, the Bradenton Republican would only commit to having his budget chairs look at the issue.
While an impasse exists in negotiations for a new three-year contract between the state and, for instance, social workers, wildlife officers, clerical and other staff, neither House Speaker Jose Oliva nor Gov. Ron DeSantis has backed a pay raise for all state employees.
This week, committees in the House and Senate are rolling out proposed spending plans for their specific areas of the overall budget.
Galvano’s statement should help frame the discussions when each chamber writes a proposed budget and then negotiates a final budget for DeSantis’ consideration.
The statement also came as crowds of state employees rallied in Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville and Tallahassee in support of a pay hike.
Workers have seen no general salary increase in 10 of the last 12 years, and when accounting for inflation, the average employee has $7,000 less purchasing power today than in 2011.
“The cost of housing, the cost of health care, the cost of transportation, the cost of educating your children in college, all that has been rising while state employees’ wages have not,” said Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, at the rally at the state Capitol.
Negotiations for a three-year contract broke down in November when the state's Department of Management Services rejected an American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees proposal for a 5% pay increase and a 2% cost of living adjustment.
Galvano said details of just how "meaningful" of a raise the Senate will propose will be known by Friday – appropriation subcommittees in both the House and Senate are finalizing their portions of their chamber’s budgets this week.
The House and Senate will then negotiate their proposals into one spending plan, on which the Republican DeSantis will have final say.
DeSantis wants to spend $900 million to boost starting pay for public school teachers, but neither he nor GOP House Speaker Jose Oliva have committed to a salary increase for about 97,000 state workers.
In 10 of the last 12 years, state workers have received no general pay raise and were hit with a mandated 3% contribution to the Florida Retirement System.
The lack of annual raises to compensate for inflation has left workers with $7,000 less purchasing power today than in 2011, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor and DMS.
“It is well past time for our state employees to earn a living wage," Ausley said at the Tallahassee rally. "What we are talking about here is simply a cost of living adjustment."
The protest on the portico of the House Office building was held at the same time as ones in Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa.
The Tallahassee event ended up attracting about 75 people and included representatives of the Florida Council of Machinists, the Working Family Coalition and Equality Florida.
While their allies stood behind them at the lectern, AFSCME members made their case for a pay raise. They argued that Florida has the smallest and least expensive work force per 10,000 residents, according to state reports.
The low pay coupled with an increased workload produced by 900 new residents a day has led many employees to quit state service. Since 2012, the workforce has dropped from 101,392 to 97,218 while the population it serves has grown by nearly 3 million.
Being 50th out of 50 comes at a cost, explained Tallulah Thomas, who works at the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee.
“We have people working two and three jobs and having to choose which bills (not) to pay,” Thomas said. “We are fed up. We deserve better. We have given, and Florida, it’s time to give back.”
The Rev. Russell L. Meyer, executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, called on lawmakers to turn a page on granting annual corporate tax cuts while ignoring state employee pay.
“We have balanced the state budget on the backs of state employees,” he said. “It’s time to write a new chapter.
"It is time to move from saying we have the least number of workers per capita at the least pay and turn around and say we can at least be mediocre and do average with the rest of the nation," he added. "We can do better.”
Writer James Call can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @CallTallahassee.
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This story originally published to tallahassee.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.