Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried this week chose to decline the state’s scheduled pay increase and encouraged Gov. Ron DeSantis to do the same.
In a letter sent to the Governor, Fried said the decision was in response to Florida’s gloomy economic forecast. She also said her senior leadership has chosen to forgo its pay raises too.
She encouraged DeSantis and his senior leadership to follow suit.
“Given the unprecedented challenges Florida faces, we who share the opportunity and responsibility to lead our state must make difficult choices together,” Fried wrote. “I trust that you will join us in this decision of fiscal responsibility and accountability to the people of Florida.”
Fried’s letter cited the state’s $5.4 billion budget shortfall and the difficult decisions state leaders will make in near future. She compared it to the tough choices Florida’s 1.4 million unemployed are also making at home.
“Floridians are no strangers to these conversations,” she wrote.
The state’s roughly 90,000 employees will see a 3% percent pay increase in the 2020 – 2021 fiscal year budget. The pay raises, totaling $249 million, were spared by DeSantis , who ultimately made nearly $1 billion in cuts to the state’s pocketbook.
While Fried and staffers will forgo their increase, she described the pay raise as “long-deserved” for state staff.
“This pay increase is long-awaited and long-deserved by the tens of thousands of hardworking Florida state employees, serving for over a decade without a raise,” she wrote.
Fried’s decision comes days after a recent report by the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographics Research (EDR) says budget shortfalls will last at least three future fiscal years. And while a vaccine could be around the corner, EDR said it can take more than a year for tourism to bounce back following an outbreak.
The Governor has warned the pandemic will “loom” as lawmakers consider the next budget.