Police and Fire Officials Blast Pension Bills

By: John Kennedy, The News Service of Florida
By: John Kennedy, The News Service of Florida


Police and fire union representatives filled a Senate workshop Friday to criticize a pair of bills dramatically overhauling public pensions in Florida, a key cost-saving plan pushed by Gov. Rick Scott and top lawmakers.

A couple dozen speakers generally blasted the legislation by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, whose Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee rolled out the legislation (SB 1128, 1130) earlier this week.

Friday’s four-hour hearing was designed to gauge opinion of the measures. It was clearly divided, with union officials blasting the proposals and city commission representatives mostly endorsing Ring’s approach.

“I don’t think anyone can say we’re rushing this process through,” Ring said. “This is a critical issue.”

Under the legislation, new employees in both the Florida Retirement System and local pension plans would be required to join 401(k)-style investment plans, with the legislation clearly aimed at phasing-out traditional pension plans.

Base salary – no overtime or other compensation – would be used to determine an employee’s pension benefits under both city and state plans. The legislation affecting the FRS (SB 1130) also would require a still-to-be determined contribution from the plan’s 655,000 government employees, ending full state payments which have endured since 1974.

Ring acknowledged that not having a contribution level set, “creates a lot of angst.” But he said the contribution rate will be determined later – when the state budget is compiled and lawmakers look to close a more than $3.6 billion budget hole.

Scott has proposed a 5-percent employee contribution, which would save $1.3 billion.

But Steve Clelland, representing the Orlando Professional Firefighters union, told the Senate panel that lawmakers should not be revamping the standards for pension agreements negotiated with local governments.

“These are local plans,” Clelland said. “But if you do this, city officials will stand back and say `we didn’t do that – they did, the Legislature.’ But if collective bargaining still exists in Florida, I’m not sure you can even do that.”

Most of the union representatives urged lawmakers to leave local pensions alone, although Ring said financial obligations faced by cities was reaching a crisis.

“Every city is not in crisis,” said Jim Tolley, lobbyist for the Florida Professional Firefighters Association. “Some are in good shape.”

Kissimmee Mayor Jim Swan told the committee cities generally support help with easing pension benefits, but want to assure, “flexibility is given for us to negotiate pension benefits.”

The legislation eases requirements on municipalities that dollars accumulated under the insurance premium tax be used solely to cover enhanced pension benefits, a provision sought by the Florida League of Cities. Instead, the bill (SB 1128) lets cities deploy this money to ease liabilities in current pension plans.

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  • by HousingMarketTankProblem Location: Tally on Feb 22, 2011 at 08:16 AM
    Save First Responder Pensions by cutting bloated pay of local gov. to keep in line with rest of state. Tallahassee Executive Salaries Fiscal Year 2010 Jay Townsend - Assistant City Manager - $124,363.20 Thomas Coe - Assistant City Manager - $145,600.00 Ricardo Fernandez - Assistant City Manager - $155,542.40 Sam McCall - City Auditor - $128,502.40 Gary Herndon - City Treasurer Clerk - $137,592.00 James English - City Attorney - $170,289.60 Anita Favors Thompson - City Manager - $204,609.60 All Appointed Officials have leased vehicles. They are required to pay 25% of the cost, while the city pays for the rest. Willis D. Crumpler - Director of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs - $97,7880.80 Cynthia Barber - Director of Environmental Policy and Energy Resources Department -$108,368.00 Raoul Lavin - Director of Management and Administration - $115,024.00 Gabriel Menendez - Director of Public Works - $127,296.00 - Mayor John Marks' hefty salary is unlisted.
  • by IgnorantpeoplebothermeSH Location: OrlandoFL on Feb 21, 2011 at 08:42 PM
    Here is something to think about. Does anyone know what kind of "salaries" and "benefits" (FOR LIFE) these politicians get just for serving one year in office. Do some homework of your own before you decide to criticize our Teachers-for educating our youth (more than you ever have or will do in your life because you did not choose their profession), our Firefighter's-for responding emergency to help our loved ones and friends in a time of need when they have a medical emergency or a fire (because you are not qualified or have what it takes to give the professional care they need from countless hours of training and recertification that is required by law and also because you did not choose their profession) and our Police Officer's-for responding to our calls for help after a traumatic incident involving robberies, kidnappings, hostages and domestic abuse (because you are not professionally trained to handle these types of real life events and again you didn't choose their profession)
  • by oink Location: fl on Feb 21, 2011 at 04:43 PM
    i was wondering when the free ride would end. GOOD JOB RICK
  • by commonsense on Feb 21, 2011 at 02:30 PM
    So if you add up all the overtime dollars paid in a year for a department(fire or law enforcement) and it is cheaper to pay the overtime than another employee to be hired, so do it, but based on the number of hours I'm hearing about...paying at time and a half dollars, it would be cheaper to hire more people...isn't that what we want, create jobs??
  • by Anonymous on Feb 21, 2011 at 12:57 PM
    If payments are made to the FRS for overtime, then the overtime should be used to calculate retirement. The thing that nobody seems to get is that this is not about how much is paid out in retirement benefits, it is about who pays into the FRS, The employer, or the employee.
  • by sad Location: overhaul america on Feb 21, 2011 at 12:14 PM
  • by Wussler Location: Tallahassee on Feb 21, 2011 at 11:15 AM
    I love all law enforcement and this shouldn't pass. Blessed are the peacemakers.
  • by David Location: Tallahassee on Feb 21, 2011 at 10:55 AM
    Hope that the free ride is over: never should have gotten pension based on overtime. This is best idea of the pension proposals: Hope your union gets busted to.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 21, 2011 at 10:48 AM
    @Fair - working "traffic" and "security" at collegiate football games is paid as overtime. These officers volunteer for this! You actually think that should be factored into their retirement pay?
  • by Linda Location: Tallahassee on Feb 21, 2011 at 08:03 AM
    I'm for this. Union members should not receive more benefits than non-union members and the taxpayers wind up having to pay for it. That is not right. Get rid of the unions is my opinion.
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