BRADENTON -- The state's new legislative leaders doled out big raises this week, while also hiring several new staff members at staggering six-figure salaries. Meanwhile, thousands of state workers have now gone six years without a pay increase.
Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) hired his former legislative aide, Chris Clark, as his new chief of staff. Clark, who earned $77,000 in his previous role, will reportedly get a bump to $150,000 a year at his new post. Gaetz also promoted 10 people already making over $100,000 per year.
Gaetz hired former Department of Revenue Executive Director Lisa Vickers as a senior policy adviser, at a salary of $135,000, $15,000 more than she was making as an agency head when she resigned to take the post.
Gaetz's tapped outgoing House Speaker Dean Cannon's communications director, Katie Betta, to fill the same post in the Senate, bumping her pay to $120,000. The previous Communications Director for Senate President Mike Haridopolos earned only $76,000.
In the House, new Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) gave out $52,000 in raises to seven staffers who already had six-figure incomes. Combined, the two leaders now have 62 policy advisers and staff directors over the hundred thousand dollar threshold.
For his chief of staff, Speaker Weatherford hired political consultant Kathy Mears, who was a deputy chief of staff for Charlie Crist when he was governor. According to reports, Mears will earn $145,000.
In all, taxpayers will pay just under $50 million for the legislative salaries of lawmakers and their staff, with over $7 million of it going to the executive staffs of the two leaders.