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A new report highlights importance of keeping guns away from the polls; and Florida wants an investigation of a fund to help pay returning citizens' court fees and fines so they can vote.

State Workers To Legislature: "Why Us?"

May 16, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - It was a tough legislative session for Florida state employees. There will be fewer of them in the fiscal year starting July 1. That date also marks the fifth fiscal year without general pay raises. Those who remain will find their gross pay three percent lighter as they start kicking into the state pension pot.

Workers have taken to the street, protesting all round the state. State Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) is on their side.

"If we want to run this state like a business, we've got to take care of our state employees. They are truly the engine in this government."

Supporters of budget cuts claim everyone has to share the pain. But public workers point out that the wealthy got big tax breaks at their expense. Williams says it's not only unfair, it's not smart. He predicts that when this budget takes effect, there will be economic fallout.

The state employee share of health insurance costs will not go up next fiscal year, but the legislature put the government on a path toward a four-tier coverage scale and a cap on how much the state will pay.

Williams warns Florida's path is on a slippery slope.

"The assault that we had on state employees this session was probably one of the worst pieces of legislation out there."

The number of authorized positions in the state budget fell from 126,000 to 122,000. An estimated 1,300 of the eliminated positions are occupied by people who will get instant pink slips.

More information is available from the Florida Progressive Coalition, http://quinnell.us/sspb/?p=12186, and the Florida Association for Community Action, www.faca.org.

Les Coleman, Public News Service - FL