Florida Lawmakers Continue to Get Wealthier

Posted at 11:57 AM, Sep 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-28 07:59:10-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (The News Service of Florida) - Being in the state's "part-time" Legislature might tax members' time, but for most it hasn't caused financial heartaches.

With all 160 annual financial-disclosure reports from House and Senate members now available --- the reports were due July 1, the last outstanding report was posted online Friday --- the average net worth of sitting senators stands at $3.8 million, while House members on average are worth $1.43 million.

For state lawmakers who are paid roughly $30,000 a year plus expenses, the net-worth averages, according to self-reported numbers, grew by $212,650 in the Senate from 2013 to 2014 and by $56,260 in the House during the same period. The newly filed reports typically reflect the finances of lawmakers as of Dec. 31.

Over the past four years, the averages are up nearly $750,000 in the Senate and just over $366,000 in the House, which has had greater turnover.

Republicans, who comprise the majority in both chambers, are doing better financially on average than their Democratic counterparts.

Senate Republicans are worth $4.5 million on average, compared to $2.6 million for Democratic members. House Republicans average $1.7 million, while House Democrats average $837,454.

Individual net worths range in the Senate from $26.99 million for Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who co-founded VITAS Healthcare Corp, to $14,042 for Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.

Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, holds the distinction of being at the median for net worth among senators at $828,099.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, has reported the largest individual growth of net worth over the past four years. Simpson, whose business interests include Simpson Environmental Services, Inc., reported a net worth of $12.3 million in 2011. For 2014, Simpson reported his net worth stood at $21.2 million.

In the House, the highs and lows range from the $17.36 million reported by Miami Republican Michael Bileca to a negative $354,165 posted by Rep. Victor Torres, D-Orlando. Torres, a retired New York City Transit Police detective who was $28,017 in the red in 2013 added a $278,440 residential mortgage to his portfolio in 2014.

Bileca a co-founder of the Towncare Dental Partnership firm located throughout Central and South Florida, has also reported one of the largest hikes in net worth over the past four years among House members.

Bileca reported a net worth of $3.855 million in 2011. His current totals include $2.56 million in 2014 income from Atg Development, a Miami limited liability firm --- one of the companies for which he has been listed as a registered agent.

The $480,000 net worth reported by freshman Rep. Mike Miller, R-Winter Park, represents the median of the House.

Not everyone has seen their net worths grow in recent years.

Over the past four years, five senators have reported decreases in their net worth --- Republicans Tom Lee and Denise Grimsley and Democrats Gibson, Gwen Margolis and Jeremy Ring.

Ring, former executive at Yahoo worth $13.7 million, had the largest drop over the past four years, $1.3 million.

In the House, 20 members --- nine Democrats and 11 Republicans --- have reported losses of net worth over the past four years.

The largest drop in the House was reported by Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley, who has seen his net worth diminish nearly $2 million, to $3.58 million, over the four year period.

For a number of those who have reported drops in net worth, the primary cause involved taking out loans to buy real estate.



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