[UPDATE] Senate Moderates Florida Public Employee Pension Bill

By: Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida; AP
By: Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida; AP

[UPDATE] THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, April 7, 2011 -

New plans to ask state employees to contribute to their pensions and increase their contribution to their health insurance emerged from the Senate as lawmakers began debate Wednesday on a spending plan that some veteran legislators said was perhaps the toughest they had ever considered.

The Senate proposals marked the chamber’s latest efforts to tackle the fraught issues of employees’ share of the retirement and health costs, issues that have scrambled party lines and left lawmakers trying to craft measures balancing the politically palatable with the financially necessary in the face of a nearly $3.75 billion shortfall.

Both the Senate and the House, which also began considering its budget for the coming fiscal year on Wednesday, rely heavily on pension savings to help balance a spending plan that will likely end up costing somewhere between the $66.5 billion proposed by the House and the $69.8 billion blueprint outlined by the upper chamber.

A final vote in both chambers is expected Thursday, setting up efforts to reconcile the two plans before the May 6 end of the legislative session.

While the House spent much of the day swatting down Democratic amendments, the Senate spent part of more than nine hours on the floor stitching together a series of amendments to a proposal by Budget Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, to overhaul the Florida Retirement System.

Wednesday’s changes brought the latest version of the Senate legislation closer to a proposal by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, that had served as the chamber’s main pension plan until Alexander unveiled a new measure last week for the Budget Committee to consider.

At the time, Alexander asked committee members to trust him to come up with a more acceptable measure.

Under the latest plan crafted on the floor, employees would contribute 2 percent of their income up to $25,000; 4 percent of the next $25,000 of income; and 6 percent from any income above $50,000. The proposal would essentially match the 3 percent rate in Alexander’s plan for employees making $50,000, with those making less paying a smaller share of their income and those making more contributing a greater slice.

But senators clashed on an amendment from Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, that would have required elected officials enrolled in the plan to contribute 7 percent to their pensions.

Supporters of the amendment said it would demonstrate that lawmakers were going beyond simply sharing the pain of state employees.

“We better lead by example,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. “I know you didn’t come up here for a salary. ... If we are depending on this salary to take care of our families back home, we’re in the wrong business.”

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, countered the measure would hit a wide swath of the elected officials far beyond the Capitol, some of whom make relatively modest incomes. She also said that lawmakers “work hard,” and that the measure was political pandering.

“It’s simply saying, ‘Look at what we’re doing. We’re paying 7 percent,’” Lynn said.

Gaetz withdrew the amendment but said he would bring back a version specifically targeting lawmaker’s pensions.

House members stayed with their version of the pension plan (HB 1405), calling for a flat 3 percent contribution from all employees. But Democrats hammered the plan, saying it amounted to a tax on state employees.

“It’s a compulsory payment,” said House Minority Leader Ron Saunders, D-Key West.

Republicans brushed off the attack, saying that workers will eventually get the money they contribute to the pension plan back. “It’s not a tax,” Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne and the bill’s sponsor, said flatly.

The Senate also passed a revised version of a proposal by Alexander to ask some state employees to take on a larger share of their health insurance costs. The provision boosts the premium for family plans by $20 a month, to $200, and caps spending on the plan for the next budget year at $2 billion.

Supporters argued that the provision wouldn’t seriously curtail the benefits offered to employees and would simply bring some cost control to a generous plan for state workers.

“I think this is a simple, direct approach that says we’ll live within our means,” Alexander said.

But some lawmakers complained that it continued a pattern of asking the state’s workers to pick up the tab for the state’s difficult budget situation.

“If all we were asking of our public employees was to pay into their health care, that would be one thing,” said Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland. “But we’re asking them to have no raises for four years, to pay into their retirement, and to pay into their health care.”

________________________________

Tallahassee. FL - The Florida Senate has moderated a bill that would require public employees to contribute to the Florida Retirement System, now fully supported by taxpayers.

The chamber approved a tiered contribution system Wednesday
instead of requiring all workers to contribute 3 percent of their wages regardless of pay level as in a similar House bills.

The Senate bill now calls for contributions of 2 percent for the first $25,000 of pay, 4 percent for the next 25 percent and 6 percent for anything more.

Both chambers are set to vote Thursday on budget bills including
the retirement legislation.

The House is looking at a $66.5 billion appropriations bill. The Senate's version weighs in at $3.3 billion more than the House plan. That spread is due largely to accounting differences.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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  • by Tom Location: South Florida on Apr 8, 2011 at 04:58 AM
    With insurance rates getting ready to skyrocket, gasoline and food prices on the rise, no raises since Christ knows when, do public workers really need to fund pensions on top of everything else? It wasn't the public workers that caused the problems we have now but the insurance companies that we are getting to de-regulate and the banks and the real estate speculators. I think that we are starting to overdose with the business friendly bhull schit!
  • by Devin Location: Ocala on Apr 7, 2011 at 06:56 PM
    I think somebody needs to take Rick Scotts money from him and give him a state job making about $25100. salary. Take 4% pension and the fed taxes and survive in the real world with no help with children plus rent, gas, insurance, food, childcare. Thanks Rick Scott, you sure do love people in Florida
    • reply
      by Pam on Apr 8, 2011 at 04:13 AM in reply to Devin
      Amen! Let's do the same for all those legislators that "work so hard" for us as well!
  • by Al Location: florida on Apr 7, 2011 at 05:20 PM
    The Dept of Corrections is no new comer to privitazation, from all the way back to Bob Graham and PRIDE. (A private interprise) Bob sold the prisons farm, dairy industry, soap making factory, clothing factory, which was all run by inmate labor, to PRIDE for 1 dollar, Plus made a contract with the state where the prison had to buy back their own stuff , still produced by inmate labor, at a higher cost. Oh yeah, Bob also had personal interest in PRIDE. Then enter Jeb Bush, he privatizes prisons food service, With Aramark, prison grown produce then rots in the field, because Aramark wont buy it, more cost to the tax payer, Oh yeah, Jebs family owned shares in Aramark, Now enter Rick Scott, he wants to privatize whole prisons, State run prisons are now sending inmates to private run facilities, but they dont want any with discipline problems, or medical problems they cost too much, if a inmate begins to cost too much, they are sent back to the state, the politicians are making sure private run facilities are making a profit, last year at a tune of 2.8 million tax payer dollars. Oh yeah, private prisons donated 450,000 dollars to Rick Scott and other Republicans campaign last year, do I hear payback time,
  • by mike Location: n.florida on Apr 7, 2011 at 05:06 PM
    A $10 an hour state employee after taxes, social sec, 3% pay towards pension, proposed insurance increase, will make a grand total of $153 dollars a week. Hope they dont have to buy gas.
    • reply
      by anon on Apr 7, 2011 at 06:19 PM in reply to mike
      Mike, welcome to the real world....
      • reply
        by hey on Apr 8, 2011 at 07:18 AM in reply to anon
        Why the welcome? It's not like he just entered the real world. He's been living it. Explain, please.
  • by r Location: fl on Apr 7, 2011 at 04:42 PM
    I work for Fl spent 8 yrs ops, now been career service 3 months, I cant afford any other increase, thankful to finally have insurance, but also have daycare & hubby in school 1 other child, we have not had a raise since 05 at least, this is ridiculous I will still keep serving my clients with my happy face
  • by QUANJEEVIUS on Apr 7, 2011 at 04:07 PM
    I be moving to Canada. Canada be nice to the african american folk.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 7, 2011 at 01:18 PM
    It gets better. Only 12% of non-OPS state workers are in the Tier 1 (2%) contribution rate. 17% are in the Tier 3 (6%) rate. Balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class again. Also, the "I pay your salary" argument is spurious. I pay taxes too, I don't get tax free money. Also, I pay YOUR salary in the private sector, too! If I'm not spending it, you're not making it. Think of that when you're hunting us down.
    • reply
      by Nikki on Apr 7, 2011 at 05:15 PM in reply to
      OPS workers are not retirement eligible they do not recieve benefits of any kind from the state. Therefore they will not have to pay into their retirement, you have to at least be career service or SES or SMS
  • by Truthtracker Location: N. Florida on Apr 7, 2011 at 01:14 PM
    My question is why aren't the legislator's contributing to pensions and health insurance increase's? Aren't they goverment employees as well? Don't need a degree for that. Just a thought.
  • by The Boss Location: Florida on Apr 7, 2011 at 09:31 AM
    Public Sector Employee, as your boss, I have decided to ask you to start contributing to YOUR retirement. The company can no longer afford to contribute 100% to your retirement.
    • reply
      by Hey on Apr 7, 2011 at 01:52 PM in reply to The Boss
      Nope! Ain't gonna happen. Deal with it and pay my way!
      • reply
        by Brenda on Apr 8, 2011 at 03:39 AM in reply to Hey
        When State employees getbless take home pay, your way isn't going to be paid as well either. There are going to be a lot of businesses losing money. The legislators work for all of us, supposedly, yet they make the big bucks. Don't we all think it's time THEY have a pay cut?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 7, 2011 at 04:45 PM in reply to The Boss
      You are the reason that I don't work in the private sector because of loser's like you, dont worry your day will come sooner than you think.
    • reply
      by Public Sector Employee on Apr 8, 2011 at 09:22 AM in reply to The Boss
      Actually, the state CAN afford it. Florida's retirement system is one of the healthiest in the country. But that's okay; if working for the government no longer offers a requisite value proposition, I can simply leave for the private sector. I've worked there before, and have a graduate business degree. When I'm gone, you can find out if you can replace me with anyone who has my qualifications and does my job as effectively and efficiently as I do. Best of luck.
  • by truth Location: fl on Apr 7, 2011 at 09:12 AM
    i am so glad that we can quit working for the state and go to work in the private sector.in many country they have to work for the state,at what ever they pay.
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