TAMPA (FOX 13) - Governor Rick Scott was in Tampa on Monday morning to announce his new plan to increase pay for law enforcement officers. He wants to give them a five-percent salary increase.
The raise would cost $11.7 million and would affect 4,000 sworn officers with the Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and several other agencies.
"This is the right thing to do," said Scott, who praised officers for doing what can be a very dangerous job. "Since becoming governor, I have been to 32 funerals of fallen officers who bravely died in the line of duty."
The governor said that this year in particular has really put members of law enforcement to the test. He praised their valor during the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and said they were invaluable a few months later when two hurricanes and a tropical storm swept through the state.
"I want to thank him for the excellent recommendation he has made," commented Col. Gene Spaulding, head of Florida Highway Patrol. "It's a huge, huge benefit and it'll go a long way to helping us recruit and retain qualified people."
A starting FHP salary is $34,000. The increase, if approved by the legislature, would bring the starting salary up to above $35,000.
An FHP spokesman says higher salaries would help the agency hold onto troopers, Right now there are 200 vacancies. It is common for troopers to leave for better paying jobs at county sheriff's offices.
"That is a dirty shame to have them paid so little and they need that increase," said Joanne Carpenter of Zephyrhills. "These people have to have an increase to live comfortably."
"Highway Patrol is very important to us," added Cheryl Lascelles. "If you don't think that they should be paid a little more to do such a great job, then I don't know where you're thinking that money should go."
The governor's recommendation comes at the same time that some economists are predicting a billion -dollar state budget shortfall. However, Scott said the economy is vigorously growing and will generate the money for the increase.