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Florida Legislature continues to be a path to wealth for many


Every Florida lawmaker has now submitted their personal financial information for 2014 (the forms were due July 1 but the final one arrived at the Commission on Ethics last week). Still, it is clear: It pays to be in the state Legislature.

Having every lawmaker’s financial information available allows us to verify data from an Aug. 1 story that showcased how most elected members of the House and Senate have seen their personal wealth increase while serving in office, even as the average Florida worker has seen their wages stagnate or even fall since the Great Recession.

Originally, the Herald/Times reported that 114 lawmakers had increased their personal wealth since first taking office. With data updated for the 14 legislators whose forms hadn’t yet been submitted, that number rises to 117.

Yes, nearly three-quarters of the 160 members of the Legislature have gotten richer since being elected. And on average, lawmakers' net worth has more than doubled from the year of their first campaign.

Lawmakers’ incomes have risen, too, to the tune of 67 percent on average — just above the 63 percent reported in August. Members of the Legislature earn nearly $30,000 per year in addition to any outside work or investments.

Contrast that with the average worker. Data shows that earnings are higher than they were in 2010 but still much lower than before the economic downturn in 2007 and 2008.

The average member of the Legislature reported earning $228,745 in 2014 and having a personal net worth of $2 million.

On average, Republicans in the Legislature are wealthier than Democrats, and senators are wealthier than members of the House. Members who represent Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties earned an average of $286,578 last year and reported net worths averaging $2 million. More details are below.

Earlier reporting relied on year-old data for 14 members of the Legislature whose financial disclosures had not been made public by the Commission on Ethics by July 31. Lawmakers have until July 1 every year to file details about their finances and sources of income, but fines don’t kick in until Sept. 1.

That is why many lawmakers don’t file forms until August. One member, Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, did not file his form until last week because of a snafu with the U.S. Postal Service. He postmarked the package before the Sept. 1 deadline, and a fine was removed from his record on the ethics commission’s website.

Financial disclosure details:

Average House member’s net worth: $1.43 million
Average House member’s 2014 income: $183,875

Average senator’s net worth: $3.79 million
Average senator’s 2014 income: $365,658

Average Republican lawmaker’s net worth: $2.38 million
Average Republican lawmaker’s 2014 income: $256,171

Average Democrat lawmaker’s net worth: $1.3 million
Average Democrat lawmaker’s 2014 income: $172,838