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Bill would affect pay for servers and bartenders

Cindy Berg remembers the days when she could pay all her bills from restaurant tips.

Those days are long gone, said Berg, who has been a server for about 20 years. Tips dropped off when the economy tanked.

That's why Berg was outraged when she learned this week that Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would knock back her current wage of $4.65 an hour to $2.13.

"That's ridiculous," said the 47-year-old, who works at an Italian restaurant in St. Pete Beach. "There was a time where as a server that was the best job you could have. … The money is just getting worse and worse and worse, every season."

Under Senate Bill 2106, approved Thursday in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, employers would have another option for how they pay tipped employees.

Currently, tipped employees in Florida are paid with this formula: The state sets a total minimum wage, which must keep pace with the cost of living and is currently $7.67 an hour. From that number, employers subtract a $3.02 "tip credit," a flat amount written into a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2004. The difference — $4.65 an hour — becomes what the restaurant pays the employee no matter the tips.

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