Senate pension plan drawing some union fansby John Kennedy | March 28th, 2013
Although most Democrats remain opposed, unions came around Thursday to support the Senate’s plan to revamp the Florida Retirement System — a milder version of the overhaul pushed by House Speaker Will Weatherford and fellow Republicans in that chamber.
The Senate plan (CS/SB 1392) cleared the Appropriations Committee 13-5, with Sen. Jeremy Ring of Margate the lone Democrat joining with the Republican majority.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, is aimed at encouraging teachers, firefighters, law enforcement officials and others public employees to abandon the traditional pension plan in favor of an investment retirement plan.
But the only workers required to join the 401(k)-styled plan would be new hires in senior management categories, a smaller slice which includes mostly higher-paid employees.
Matt Puckett, lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, endorsed the proposal — saying the legislation would “get pensions out of the headlines.”
“We will no longer have guaranteed pensions to people who will get $100,000 or more in salaries,” Puckett said.
The $136 billion Florida Retirement System has more than 620,000 active members. The House is looking to have all new employees join the investment plan.
The House requirement would still affect those currently in the traditional pension, analysts have said. Investment strategies will change, analysts note, as the defined benefit pension caters increasingly to an older, smaller workforce.
House Democrats and unions have locked in opposition to Weatherford’s approach.
But with Ring and several union representatives supporting the Senate version, it appears some critics of the House proposal are looking to strengthen Simpson’s hand for looming end-of-session dealmaking between the two chambers.