By BRANDON LARRABEE
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
County supervisors of elections will see their salaries rise, under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Rick Scott.
Without comment, Scott’s office announced that he had signed the legislation (SB 514), which supporters say is aimed at bringing supervisors’ pay into line with other county constitutional officers — a group of elected officials that includes tax collectors, property appraisers and clerks of circuit court.
Supporters argue the lower pay rate was a legacy of an earlier era, when women held the overwhelming majority of supervisors’ offices. Most supervisors are still women.
Scott’s approval of the bill was not a surprise. After a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Scott indicated to reporters he would sign the legislation.
“I think they’ve done a good job,” the governor said in response to a question on the bill. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”
According to legislative analyses, the bill is expected to increase pay to supervisors by a total of $1.2 million, or an average of $18,540 per county. The average pay raise would be 18.7 percent.
The bill passed the Senate in a 36-4 vote early this month. But it ran into trouble in the House, where fiscal conservatives clashed with members of both parties who supported increasing the pay rate to bring equity to the system and to acknowledge the difficulty of the supervisors’ jobs.
The debate in the House split both parties before lawmakers voted 58-54 to approve the legislation. Most of the members of the House’s GOP majority — 46 — opposed the bill, as did eight Democrats.
“We need to make sure that this office is respected, just as we respect the office of sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser,” said Rep. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican and supporter of the legislation.
But opponents said the bill would give some officials special treatment at a time when salary increases for state workers have been scant — though the money for the supervisors’ pay would come from county budgets.
There was no across-the-board pay increase for state workers in a new budget approved this month and signed into law by Scott, though some workers in select categories will receive a boost.
“This (the supervisors of elections bill) is nothing more than politicians feeding politicians by giving pay raises to other elected officials,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. “And frankly, if we’re going to do pay raises, I say we do them across the board for all state workers and not pick out a select group of people.”
The bill takes effect Oct. 1.