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Florida Lawmakers Act To Cut Top State Salaries

February 13, 1992

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Reluctant to pass new taxes in an election year, Florida legislators have voted to cut the pay of the state’s best paid professionals: largely university faculty members.

Critics say the move could create a ″brain drain″ that would weaken education.

″It says the Legislature has contempt for the faculty of the university system,″ said Patrick Riordan, spokesman for the State University System. ″This sends a signal to the faculty to leave Florida. Get out while the getting is good.″

A bill to take back 3 percent from nearly 5,600 state employees earning over $60,000, except for medical school employees, and award that money to the state’s lowest paid workers passed both the Senate and House during budget debates Tuesday night.

But Gov. Lawton Chiles plans to veto the legislation, press secretary Julie Anbender said Thursday. Chiles’ 1991 earnings of $97,785 ranked just 469th among state employees.

The measure was sponsored by Rep. Mike Friedman, a public school teacher in Dade County. The legislation doesn’t affect public school teachers because they are paid by county governments.

Friedman said the move would only raise more than $3 million.

Riordan said the proposed cuts would hit engineering and law school faculties particularly hard.

″It’s a cheap and easy way to curry favor with the taxpayers to say we’ll cut the fat cats,″ Riordan said.

″It sends a message we don’t want top-flight people,″ said state Rep. Hurley Rudd.

Thirty-four of the state’s 50 highest paid professionals are employed by the University of Florida. President John Lombardi and five other researchers and deans at the school were among Florida’s 10 highest paid employees. Lombardi was fifth at $192,577 last year.

The highest paid employee was Chih-Tang Sah, who earned $215,569 as an Eminent Scholar at the University of Florida in electrical engineering. He was one of four people paid more than $200,000 last year. No. 2 was Ronald Kaufman, paid $214,176 as vice president for medicine at the University of South Florida.

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