State attorneys and public defenders face off in court, but they agreed on one thing during a meeting Wednesday of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice: Their staff attorneys need pay raises.
Trouble is, committee chairman Aaron Bean isn’t convinced there’ll be enough money to pay for that, as much as he sympathizes.
“The secret is that there’s just not going to be enough money to cover everybody’s requests,” Bean said following the hearing. “That’s why we triage.”
Representatives of an array of state agencies that field attorneys begged the panel for pay raises. Other than state attorneys and public defenders, the commitee heard from regional conflict counsel, the statewide guardian ad litem office, and capital collateral representative offices.
Additional public-safety agencies also requested increases, including higher salaries. This document outlines their presentations to the committee.
Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed $83.5 million state budget would add resources for public-safety agencies — particularly the Department of Corrections. They include $38.7 million to pay corrections and probation officers more; $4.9 million for hiring bonuses in high-vacancy institutions; and a $2.5 million base-pay bump for corrections officers in mental health units.
Scott envisions no pay raises for other state workers, however, other than a potential to earn bonuses of up to $1,500.
Stacy Scott, public defender for the 8th Circuit in Gainesville, and who argued that public defenders are underpaid compared to prosecutors, insisted it makes sense to invest in trial attorneys.
“Public defenders handle cases at much less expense than if you have to pay a private lawyer to represent indigent people who have a right to a lawyer,” Scott said.
Bill Cervone, Scott’s counterpart in the Gainesville state attorney office, held out hope for pay raises.
“We keep hearing that (Senate budget chief Jack) Latvala‘s pushing it and (Senate President Joe) Negron‘s on board with Latvala,” Cervone said.
Bean said that, notwithstanding disagreements between the House and Senate in other areas, the two chambers agree on the need to bolster public-safety agencies.
“There’s plenty of conflicts elsewhere, but in this area we cant to honor our public servants in these critical areas,” Bean said.
“We want to keep the bad guys locked up. We want to keep our record (low) crime rate on that decline. How do we get there is just fine-tune details. I’ve already met with my (House) counterpart, and I feel good.”