Gov. Scott draws heat for vetoing firefighter raises

Union, Florida agriculture commissioner criticize governor's decision

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott's record amount of line-item vetoes to the Florida budget is drawing strong criticism from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

One veto that is drawing almost universal fire involves the $1.6 million item that would have given a $2,000 raise to each Division of Forestry's firefighter. The raise would have benefited 606 firefighters whose annual salary is just over $24,000.

During a visit to St. Augustine on Thursday, the governor justified his decision by saying other state workers deserved the raise more.

"I put in (the) budget bonuses for state workers, and the Legislature has put that in there," Scott said. "Highway Safety did show us where there was a shortage, and so we did raises there."

Tommy Price, the head of the union for the forestry firefighters, said it is hard to keep the firefighter on staff without raises.

"I was really shocked to be honest with you. We were really kind of expecting it," Price said. "As forestry firefighters, we haven't had a raise in 10 years. We had our hopes up, because this year we had unanimous support in the Senate and House."

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who also oversees the Florida Department of Forestry, was also troubled that the raises were cut from the budget.

"I'm profoundly disappointed," said Putnam. "Our forest firefighters put their lives on the line. They're demonstrably underpaid, relative to peers."

The union said they'll try again next year, hoping they can retain their firefighters until then. 

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