Latvala: 5 Percent Ante Too High for State Pension

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida

Tallahassee, FL - Rank and file government workers, police, firefighters and other emergency responders would be required to contribute 2 percent toward their pensions under a Senate proposal aired Thursday.

Focusing on the Senate’s pension reform plan (SB 1130), the chamber’s Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee took nearly two hours of public testimony as it discussed amendments that will be considered when the committee meets again after the legislative session begins next month. Lawmakers are looking to have government workers contribute to their pensions – which they currently don’t do – in part because they say it’s fair, and in part because they say the current system is too expensive to sustain over the long haul.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, introduced a series of amendments that would blunt the impact of an earlier proposed plan, which would have had workers put in 5 percent of their paychecks. Latvala on Thursday proposed a 2 percent maximum contribution for rank and file employees covered by the Florida Retirement System, which now has more than 650,000 state, county , school district and local employees.

“I feel strongly that there are many people who work for government for the pension they are going to get,” Latvala said. “It’s important to keep that path open for them.”

Unlike rank and file workers, senior managers and elected officials would have to contribute 4 percent of their salaries toward their pensions under amendments Latvala distributed Thursday and will likely formally introduce at the committee’s next hearing.

Other proposed amendments would allow new employees first hired at salaries of $75,000 or below to choose a traditional pension plan that guarantees retirement benefits or opt for a 401 (k) plan similar to those increasingly offered by private businesses. Senior managers and employees hired at more than $75,000 would be required to go into a 401 (k).

Gov. Rick Scott has proposed doing away with the traditional retirement plan in favor of a having employees contribute 5 percent to what amounts to an individual retirement account. Scott wants all new hires to be placed in the 401 (k)-style plans.

While he would prefer no employee buy-in, Latvala said the writing is on the wall and the Senate needs to offer a plan that is less expensive for employees, many of whom have not seen raises in the past several years.

“What we’re trying to do is craft something meaningful out of this committee that may have a little longer shelf life,” he said.

Committee members heard from a procession of union representatives, teachers, firefighters, and university officials echoing the sentiment that public employees in their respective fields trade higher salaries in the private sector for the retirement benefits available from the state.

They also argued that Florida’s system has operated in a surplus for much of the past 15 years. Like most investments, the fund took a hit in the most recent recession but is climbing its way back toward fully funded status.

Andrew McMullian, former director of the state’s retirement system, said lawmakers must tread lightly and not scrap something that has become the envy of others.

“You cannot improve on the system, but you can destroy the system,” McMullian said. “…You are putting employees at risk with the ebb and flow of the stock market.”


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Anon on Feb 25, 2011 at 02:29 PM
    Scott's trying to get 8600 State Jobs and Fix it Where a State job isn't Worth having in Other Words He's trying to force all State Workers out.
  • by Number Cruncher Location: Florida on Feb 25, 2011 at 08:03 AM
    I'm so glad the good people in Tallahasee are interested in aligning public-sector benefits with private-sector benefits. Naturally, I'm sure they're also interested in aligning public-sector COMPENSATION with private-sector compensation. I read in USA Today that businesses plan on increasing their employees' salaries an average of 3% in 2011. Will Governor Scott and the Legislature commit to the same salary increase for government employees?
  • by stupid state worker Location: tally on Feb 25, 2011 at 07:27 AM
    I've been with the state long enough to know, we always get the dirty end of the stick. It's down right sad how we make practically nothing and yet we also give more than most when it comes time to contribute. Thank you Latvala for your efforts and to hell with you Scott, I know our state needs to make some changes but you really shouldn't mess with the state employee's salaries, without first concentrating on your other issues like immigration remember that campaign promise, imagine how much money the state could save by doing something about that first. Oh by the way how about a raise, I recommend 6% and then you can take 2% for our retirement.
  • by Small Victory does matter Location: Tally on Feb 25, 2011 at 06:49 AM
    Bull, Don't you get it? Scott listens to no one but himself. He makes up his own rules. Our only prayer is that our FL House and Senate have enough insight and wisdom to do what is Best for Florida. Some may differ with Scott's 15% budget cut, that the state will go into deeper recession; or bills, amendments that Scott, and senators are sponsering. They, the Legislature cast their votes thoughout this complex process. In the final end, Govs usually get most of what they want, but not everything. At least some of our senators are willing to fight for us on FRS pension concerns. Be grateful for any small victory we get. Enough said.
  • by Danno Location: Tally on Feb 25, 2011 at 06:32 AM
    Thank goodness that there are still some moderate legislators in Florida. This gives me hope that all of the governor's proposals concerning state empolyees won't just be rubber-stamped.
  • by BULL Location: FLORIDA on Feb 25, 2011 at 04:58 AM
    STOP TRYING TO REINVENT THE WHEEL IT HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE. TELL SCOTT WE DONT WANT HIM FOOLING AROUND WITH OUR PENSION PLAN. I DONT KNOW WHAT MAKES HIM THINK HE'S SO DARN SMART. HE BANKRUPTED THE COMPANY HE WAS THE C.E.O. OF.
  • by Thanks for Trying Location: Tally on Feb 25, 2011 at 04:44 AM
    Thank you Senator Latvala (R) from St. Pete. This is a start to help us. Keep trying. We appreciate you carefully crafting a proposed amendment that would be less severe on the pocket book of a certain group, the low wage earner government worker, who do most of the work to run the State.
  • by sick of it Location: tallahassee on Feb 25, 2011 at 04:24 AM
    WHEN ARE THE RICH CORPORATIONS GOING TO PAY THEIR SHARE??? Giving large business a tax cut when you are asking the hard-working middle class to eat it is wrong. In hard times EVERYONE should have to give a little. The guise that tax breaks for corporations will create jobs is ridiculous. China or Mexico will ALWAYS give the best tax breaks and if the government (aka corporation's puppets) is not there to be behind its citizens and support them, who will?? Walmart? doubtful.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 25, 2011 at 03:03 AM
    Until 1976, state employees used to contribute 4%. I think salaries of overpaid low and middle level supervisors, Bureau Chiefs, Actuaries, the numerous levels of school administrator positions,principals,etc. should be examined. Government should have a reasonable career path but not to the extent that people get rich at taxpayers' expense.
  • by KT1000 Location: Tall. on Feb 25, 2011 at 02:28 AM
    In the U.S., Florida ranks dead last that 50th of the 50 States in what it pays its state employees. That not just your rank and file, that’s your state law enforcement also! I have no problem paying in 2% or even 5% but first we’ve got to see some type of raise. There is nothing else you can do to draw corporations to this state; we don’t personal income tax nor do we a corporate income tax! If they’re not here now they are not coming! Did you hear that Mr. Scott? Stop making the poorer citizens pay for the rich!! It’s time to cut the interest rates on those bonds and not take food from children!
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