The Battle Over Pensions for Firefighters and Police Officers Continues

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By: Gina Pitisci

Tallahassee, FL - The annual battle over police and firefighter pensions continued today as the senate government oversight and accountability committee tried to work towards a compromise on legislation that would shore up local pension funds. Senator Jeremy Ring (D) Margate, asks "how can we all together work towards getting these pensions funds in a more stable way?" He has been working on the issue for 3 years and feels that it's not only a complex policy issue but also a highly emotional one. Ring says "your having cities where almost 80 percent of their revenue, their taxes are going to pay retirement, that's beyond crisis level."

Representatives spoke to the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee about Senate Bill 458 which in part, applies to local pensions for municipal city and special district fire fighters and police officers. Vice President of the Florida Professional Firefighters and Paramedics, Robert Suarez says “some cities have not managed their benefits and their plans well. There are plenty of cities and fire fighters that have done a very good job of managing their retirement systems, there are some that have not done as good of a job."

According to Ring, although final decisions were not made, the workshop did address important points about a past law that required cities to use tax revenues above those collected in 1997 for extra benefits. He says "I'm hopeful that the committee as a whole recognizes that the 1999 law, if not maybe flawed at the time, is flawed today and it has contributed, not entirely but somewhat to some of the challenges and crisis that we see in cities."

Suarez was one of many speakers and says his goal in speaking to the committee is to see what the state can do to help make sure those retirement plans are in place for the firefighters when they need them. He says "I think the Senators are listening very carefully to our concerns, listening to the cities and I think they will come up with a fair compromise." Suarez says his next step will be to continue to work with the committee and their staff addressing their concerns on the legislation as it exists now and eventually come back to discuss the issue again at the next committee hearing in two weeks.

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