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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida state employees could see a pay bump in DeSantis’ budget proposal

Florida state capitol building
Patrick Sternad
Florida state capitol building

There are about 16,000 empty positions in a state that already has one of the smallest government workforces in the country.

Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed for the wage increase and lawmakers will deliver it in the upcoming state budget.   

The American Federation of Labor’s Russell Harper says this move will address Florida’s state employee vacancies.

“Basically, all state workers, all employees deserve better pay living wages,” said Harper. “Some of the state employees have not gotten a raise for quite a few years and, and they really need it with the cost of living.”

State lawmakers have agreed to hike up workers’ pay by 5%, including a 10% increase for trade professionals like plumbers and certain electricians.

The budget also includes a separate item for agencies to give raises above 5 percent to address retention problems they're having with workers leaving for the private sector.

If DeSantis signs off, this will be the third consecutive pay raise for the state workforce. The House had hoped to also restore a cost of living increase to pension benefits earned after 2011, but the Senate rejected that—to the disappointment of House Appropriations Committee Chair Tom Leeks.

“It’s a big expense not only in the state but on some of the local government and its local agencies,” said Leeks. “We have to think that through as well.”

Nat Bender is the spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He worries without the COLA increase, retirees won’t be able to keep up with inflation.

“We were hopeful that the cost-of-living assessments would be restored to the retirement system,” said Bender. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. But frankly to keep up with rising cost, we believe the state retirees deserve the COLA restored and we would like to see that happen.”

The FRS is the Florida Retirement System.

The state worker pay raises do not include people who work for the state’s public colleges and universities. Lawmakers have put additional money into those schools.

While most state workers will see their pay go up, the state is also placing more roadblocks on their ability to join a union. SB 256, a plan to eliminate automatic salary withdrawals for union dues, is moving forward over the objections of public employee unions like AFSCME’s Bender.

“This bill would only eliminate the ability to take union dues out of the paycheck,” said Bender. “So, we believe the intent of it is to discourage union members by procedurally making it more difficult for the members to exercise their freedom to join the union.”

The only unions exempt from the plan are law enforcement and firefighter unions, which generally support Republicans.

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.