Florida Senators Balk at Higher Pay for State Leaders

TALLAHASSEE — Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday objected to a House proposal that would raise the pay of future governors, state Cabinet members and judges and suggested a study on legislative salaries.

The committee voted unanimously to position a House bill (HB 5007) that includes the salary issue for upcoming budget negotiations.

But several senators voiced opposition to raising the pay of the governor, lieutenant governor, Cabinet members and appellate, circuit and county judges to amounts on par or similar to state Supreme Court justices starting in the 2027-2028 fiscal year.

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, pointed to a need to first address property insurance and other economic issues that Floridians face. He also said the proposal could lead to executive pay higher than the current $251,414 a year of state Supreme Court justices.

“If it comes out like this, I would just be a hard ‘no’ on the floor,” Ingoglia said.

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Under the House proposal, the governor’s pay would be at least even with Supreme Court justices.

Gov. Ron DeSantis reported receiving $141,400 in 2022 as part of his annual financial-disclosure report released last June.

Under the bill, the lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner and state chief financial officer would see their salaries set at 95 percent of the governor’s annual pay.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, for example, reported receiving $134,351 for his state job in 2022 in his most-recent annual financial disclosure report.

Also under the House proposal, district court of appeal judges would be paid at least 90 percent of the Supreme Court salary rate. Circuit-judge pay would be at least 80 percent of the Supreme Court rate. County-judge pay would be at least 75 percent of the Supreme Court rate.

DeSantis, Patronis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez and Attorney General Ashley Moody will have to leave their positions after the 2026 elections because of term limits. Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson can run for another term that would start in early 2027.

Meanwhile Thursday, some senators said the House proposal should include a study of the pay of lawmakers, who get paid about $30,000 a year and per-diem amounts, with relatively little change since 2010.

“I believe that there’s a study by gov.com that says the persistently low salaries of state legislators often discourages citizens from serving in public office, especially as lawmakers face heavier workloads and greater demands on their time,” said Sen. Bobby Powell, a West Palm Beach Democrat who is leaving the Senate this year and is running for a Palm Beach County Commission seat.

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“I’ve watched everybody else get an increase, and I was happy for them,” Powell continued. “But at some point, my gas goes up too. My light bill went up. My water went up. My insurance on my house went up. The cost to be a legislator outweighs, at some point, it outweighs the benefit.”

Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, agreed that the state is potentially losing “good people” who can’t afford public service.

“We should make it enough money that covers the cost of the time that you are missing in your job,” Polsky said.

Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Sunny Isles Beach, said voters wouldn’t approve an increase for legislators, while adding that statewide officials “enumerated in this bill, they get free housing, SUVs, airplanes.”

Appropriations Chairman Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, suggested addressing a salary study early in the next legislative session to determine “what is reasonable,” while saying the issue of legislative raises has not been debated recently.

“This is one reason that the Senate did not deal with any of the raises for these areas,” Broxson said.

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