[UPDATE] Major Change for Senate Pension Bill, But for How Long?

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida; AP
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida; AP

[UPDATE] 3-11 10:40am -- TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) --

The Florida Senate may be on a
collision course with Gov. Rick Scott and the House over how much
public employees should contribute to their pensions.

Scott wants employees including teachers, who currently do not
pay into the Florida Retirement System, to contribute 5 percent of
their wages.

A Senate committee on Thursday voted to require contributions to
the Florida Retirement System only from those making more than
$40,000. That would exempt most state workers.

The bill (SB 1130) would require 2 percent contributions from
workers making $40,000 to $75,000 and 4 percent for more than

Scott's proposal is in a House bill (HB 1405), but it has yet to
receive a committee hearing.



A Senate panel backed off considerably from a proposal to require state workers to make contributions to their pension fund, exempting many state workers, and cutting back the amount others would have to chip in.

On a 12-1 vote, the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee on Thursday evening approved a bill that exempted members of the Florida Retirement System making less than $40,000 – a huge segment of those in the system – from having to contribute anything toward their retirement plan.

Under the amended bill (SB 1130), those state workers making under $75,000 would keep the option of remaining in the state pension fund, while those making more than that would be forced to take a 401 (k) style proposal without a defined benefit.

In addition to exempting everyone making less than $40,000 from having to contribute to their pension, the measure would cap the contribution rate for those making between $40,000 and $75,000 at 2 percent.

Regular class pension fund members making more than that would have to contribute 2 percent of their first $75,000 in salary and 4 percent of what they make above that. Senior administrators and elected officials would simply pay 4 percent of their full salary if they make more than $75,000.

The proposal is dramatically softer on state workers than the 5 percent contribution requirement initially sought by the committee and still being proposed by Gov. Rick Scott.

“This committee does not believe that the state worker is the enemy,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate. “We’re not demonizing the state workers.”

Ring reminded a committee room full of firefighters, police and emergency workers, though, that the measure has another committee stop, and in the Senate Budget Committee, it’s likely some of the panel’s effort to make the bill easier on state workers might be undone.

“I’m hopeful we can hold onto a lot of it,” Ring said afterward. “We’re going to try to.”

Pressed, Ring acknowledged that keeping workers who make less than $40,000 from having to contribute anything toward their pension was going to be difficult.

“The budget committee is going to look at that,” Ring said. “I’m not sure that ultimately that stays in.”

That exemption was put into the bill by an amendment by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, a former sheriff. Sheriffs around the state have urged lawmakers – and did again in the committee on Thursday – to consider that many police and other government workers accept lower pay for the trade of a good pension that they don’t have to pay into.

Ring said he didn’t know how many pension fund members made under $40,000, but figured it was most. State workforce statistics show that nearly 75 percent of all state employees earn less than that, and 65 percent of workers are in the Florida Retirement System.

Another change made in the committee would make the employee contributions required only when the pension fund has less money than it would need to pay out all benefits.

The lone “no” vote on the committee for the bill came from Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando.

While acknowledging that the new approach may not have full support as the bill goes through the process, Ring did note that 12 senators voted for the bill Thursday, and could probably be counted on to vote for the bill in its current form on the floor. That’s more than half way to a majority of 21 that would be needed to pass a bill and it’s a bipartisan group, Ring pointed out.

Doug Martin, a spokesman for AFSCME, a union that represents a large number of state workers, stopped short of saying the union would support the new version of the measure.

“It’s better than it was,” Martin said. “Much better.” Still, he too, noted that it may not stay as is.

Scott and Republicans in the House have said they want FRS members to put 5 percent of their salaries toward their pension as a way of showing $1.3 billion in savings as lawmakers try to close a budget gap.

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  • by Anonymous on Mar 12, 2011 at 09:47 AM
    Teachers went to college and most work their butts off every day, as do our police and firemen. There are always a few who don't pull their weight, as with any job. But without teachers, police and firemen, the tax payer will be up a creek, paying more to educate their children and take care of their own. We take less because we want to serve and most put a lot of their own money into what they do (teachers) because they want to help the children. I think a sliding scale depending on what the person makes is a great change and something most could live with.
  • by truth Location: fl on Mar 11, 2011 at 02:58 PM
    the senate makes less then 40,000.00 so it want cost them anything !what new make every one above me pay i have a 401k at work our company will match what i put in up to 6% and many workers don't even have this.but theirs is no shame with these folks.
  • by @Wilhem on Mar 11, 2011 at 01:08 PM
    You are kidding me right? Ask those white males pasted over with more experience but because of affirmative action the job was given to a minority. WAY TO EARN IT!!! White males are becoming the new minority. Tell it to Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.
  • by Wilhem Location: Tallahassee on Mar 11, 2011 at 12:01 PM
    Truth hurts,I take it that you're also white, black people with the same experience and college education wouldn't have the same opportunity due to a little clause called, "white privilege", as a white, German, I know these things.
  • by truth hurts on Mar 11, 2011 at 11:01 AM
    These cuts won't hurt me and my family to bad because i make good money. I make good money because i went to college, work my butt off, and never expected anyone to take care of me. When i wanted more money i went out and got it. When i wasn't happy with my job, i did something about it. Novel concept.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 11, 2011 at 10:53 AM
    Upon reading the article, I was outraged at how such an illogical bill could be passed by the committee without anyone realizing it could cause salary inversions for those near the 40K and 75K thresholds. I just read the bill amendments, and it appears the senators aren't as dumb as I thought. It now reads something like: 0 percent of the salary up to 40K, plus 2% of the salary in excess of 40K up to 75K, plus 4% of the salary in excess of 75K. So if you make 40,200, you'll still be taking home more than someone making 39,999. WCTV should check into this and amend the article if I'm right.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 11, 2011 at 09:42 AM
    Also to the one who makes 40200,so you have to pay your own insurance premium,huh?BOO HOO
  • by Anonymous on Mar 11, 2011 at 09:19 AM
    It is more than you make, 'so o-well'. Real nice! I have interviewed and moved up three positions in the past 4 years. I make more than you because I didn't sit on my butt, I got out and applied. Now, the private version of my job would make double, so I am in the process of going that direction.
  • by Anonymous Location: North Florida on Mar 11, 2011 at 08:45 AM
    Thanks very much for this new bill I hope that the rest of the Senate will vote for this, and for the one that makes $40,200 , that is a lot more than I make so o-well, this bill is right for all, the more you make you can afford it
  • by gravelyconcern Location: S.FL on Mar 11, 2011 at 08:24 AM
    Thanks to all Senators that supports this more reasonable bill amendment re: public employees contributions to their pensions.
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