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House Republicans float late-hour pension overhaul

by John Kennedy | April 4th, 2014

The state’s traditional pension plan would be closed to senior managers and other new workers would have to wait longer to be eligible for the plan under legislation that cleared a House panel Friday on a partyline vote.

With a more aggressive overhaul of the Florida Retirement System looking dead this session, the House State Affairs Committee floated a more modest approach as the Legislature lurches into the session’s final month.

While ruling Republicans in recent years demanded changes because they viewed the $144.4 billion pension as financially unstable, the rhetoric has changed with the new proposal. The proposal’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said the new approach is a “modernization” of the FRS.

Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, endorsed the change while acknowledging the current pension is on solid financial footing.

“Pensions are a 20th century dinosaur in a 21st century world,” Caldwell said. “We may have the strongest dinosaur out there, but it’s still a dinosaur.”

Democrats and public employees’ unions, however,  joined in opposing the change, saying it is unwarranted.

“We are playing fast and loose with public policy,” said Rich Templin of the AFL-CIO.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, have made changing the FRS one of their priority proposals this spring.

But an earlier proposed change centered on offering new employees a so-called ‘cash balance’ option instead of the traditional pension barely cleared a Senate committee and stalled in the House while a financial study was being prepared.

The late-hour plan taking shape Friday is similar to a proposal backed by the Senate last year. So there is some possibility that it may gain strength. But it looms as a potentially divisive homestretch issue in a session where ruling Republicans appear uninterested in conflicts that could damage Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election prospects this fall.

Supporters of the proposal say that a majority of public employees currently fail to stay in the system long enough to qualify for the traditional pension. They also said that the current 622,000 active members of the FRS and 348,000 retirees wouldn’t be affected by the change in the plan.

Opponents disagreed, saying that limiting some new employees from joining the traditional pension will hurt it financially in coming years.

“The defined benefit plan is going to be weaker,” said Ron Silver, a former legislator now representing the Teamsters Joint Council, whose union includes state correctional officers. “It’ll be less than what it is today.”

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7 Responses to “House Republicans float late-hour pension overhaul”

  1. GOP Says:

    The party of the GOP (greedy old pigs) is hard at work

  2. Carol G Says:

    State employees are among the lowest paid employees in the state; the pension being the only “bone” to stay with their jobs. Supporters of this lousy move – please enjoy the large employee turnover (along with long lines, miserable service) this move is sure to create. Thank a Republican for the extinction of the middle class.

  3. Kimberley Says:

    if it’s such a good idea, why do it in the dead of the night when no one is watching, politicians are SCUM of the earth – take away THEIR CUSH pension~!

  4. Registered independent Says:

    I have lost virtually all respect for republicans. I do not mean that in a sarcastic way and I am NOT a democrat, but the sneaky, greedy little men of their party make me Ill. Just corrupt pandering evil little petty men. May God have mercy on their cold dark souls.

  5. Jupiter Guy Says:

    These clowns really don’t want people who have worked their butts off for this state to get a dime. Makes you want to take aim at them.

  6. Tom Reynolds Says:

    Stop all pensions fast . Give a larger hourly rate . Let the worker invest or do whatever . No Pensions – Larger wages . Done ……….. next !

  7. Ted the Nimble Says:

    GET RID OF ALL PENSIONS!!! You Liberal Socialists want the tax payers to pay for your retirement. WHO PAYS FOR MINE??? ME!! Talk about greed. You lazy bastards try saving for retirement like everyone else!!!

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