TALLAHASSEE -- Florida’s new legislative leaders handed out hefty raises and salaries to many of their top staff members and newly hired talent even as thousands of state workers went for a sixth year without a bump in pay.
Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, who were sworn in last month, immediately hired new chiefs of staff and paid them more than taxpayers pay state Cabinet officials.
They are paying 62 top policy advisors and staff directors more than $100,000 a year. And they gave salary increases totaling $252,000 to their 17 highest-paid employees.
Giving the most in raises was Gaetz, R-Niceville, who promoted 10 people who were already making more than $100,000 a year in state jobs. The biggest promotion went to his top aide, Chris Clark, whose salary jumped from $77,000 as an aide in Gaetz’s legislative office to $150,000 as the Senate president’s chief of staff.
Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, gave more-modest pay increases to his highest-earning staffers. Seven employees, who earned more than $100,000, got raises totaling $52,000.
State workers, by contrast, have not seen a pay raise in six years. Last year, the Legislature also tapped into their take-home pay by deducting 3percent to pay the annual contribution to the Florida Retirement System. The result is a 15 percent drop in earning power for most state workers, labor unions say.