Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ proposed nearly $100 billion spending plan would provide an average 4% pay increase for state employees and ensure their health insurance benefits remain the same through 2023.
DeSantis’ budget proposes $255 million for career service state employee raises but includes agency discretion in determining who gets a pay bump. The raises are are in addition to previously approved pay increases set to take effect next year, which would bring all employee pay to at least $13 an hour.
DeSantis’ budget also allocates $75.4 million to increase the base rate of more than 4,500 sworn law enforcement officers, $124.2 million to increase the base rate pay for correctional probation officers and inspectors who work for the Department of Corrections, and another $15.9 million to the department to implement an employee retention plan.
The budget also directs $11.2 million to increase the base rate for Department of Juvenile Justice detention and probation officers and $1.4 million to increase the salaries of more than 580 state firefighters.
During a press conference announcing his plan, DeSantis said his decision to keep schools and other state operations open in fall 2020 signals he is committed to protecting Florida employees.
“We have saved the livelihoods of so many people who are hardworking, who don’t have the luxury of working from home, and we stood up for them time and time again,” he said.
In allocating the pay increases to career service employees, the Governor’s budget requires the agencies to take into consideration the length of time employees have been on the job. Moreover, the budget directs the agencies to consider how to implement the pay raises to ensure adequate ratios between employee pay classes are maintained.
But that’s not the only upside for state employees in the Governor’s proposed spending plan for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. DeSantis’ budget also puts a freeze on any changes to employee health benefits, either in benefit design or cost.
State employees haven’t had an increase in their health insurance premiums in more than 15 years. According to the Division of State Group Insurance in the Department of Management Services, the annual family premium for the state group health insurance plan was $21,973, as of July 1. Of that, the employee is responsible for $2,160.
People who work for the state currently can enroll in a preferred provider organization policy, PPO, or a health maintenance organization plan, HMO. Regardless of which type of health plan they enroll in, state employees can choose their level of coverage. Employees can choose a standard option or a high-deductible policy. High deductible plans have lower monthly premiums, but employees are required to pay more out of pocket costs for their health care. High deductible plans also are accompanied by tax-free health savings accounts. But not many state employees enroll in high deductible plans. Amy Baker, the coordinator for Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said earlier this month that fewer than 5,000 people — most of them active workers — were enrolled in high deductible health insurance plans, or about 2.7% of the state workforce.
The “Florida Freedom Budget” directs DMS to ensure benefits currently under the various health insurance plans remain the same through June 30, 2023.
Meanwhile, the health insurance recommendations in DeSantis’ proposed budget run afoul of Sen. Jeff Brandes’ desire to remodel the state group health insurance program in the next fiscal year. Brandes, now chair of the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, wants to steer more state employees into high deductible health plans. Brandes said those plans make consumers more aware of the services they get as well as the costs of the services. As a result of “having skin in the game,” Brandes said, they are less likely to consume unnecessary health care services that can increase costs.