Coalition fights Florida Retirement System changesNews added by Benefits Pro on February 8, 2013

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By Paula Aven Gladych

A bill scheduled for consideration today in the Government Operations Subcommittee of the Florida House of Representatives would weaken a healthy retirement system, raise taxpayer costs and force more Floridians to rely on social services, according to opponents of the measure.

The bill would close the Florida Retirement System defined benefit plan Jan. 1, and force all public employees hired by government agencies after that into defined contribution plans.

“There’s no fire threatening the Florida Retirement System except the fire the Legislature is lighting with unnecessary and costly legislation,” said Gary Rainey, president of Florida Professional Firefighters, a member of the Florida Retirement Security Coalition.

The coalition objected to committee action on the bill, despite the chair’s assurances that his committee would not vote on the legislation before an actuarial study detailing the costs and impacts on current and future retirees is complete.

“It’s ridiculous for legislators to consider a proposal without even knowing how much it will cost taxpayers and how it will affect workers who serve Florida and in many cases put their lives on the line every day to protect Floridians,” Rainey said.

The bill also would make no provision for the families of fallen first responders if they became disabled or died on the job.

The coalition highlighted other problems with the proposed legislation. The first being that the Florida Retirement System is in good shape financially and that by closing the plan to new hires it would not only cost more for both employees and taxpayers, current workers and retirees would be hurt by an unstable future funding source for their retirement funds, the coalition stated.

The coalition also pointed out that the Florida Retirement System is currently funded at 86.9 percent, well above the recommended 80 percent. In 2011, the Legislature reduced compensation for public employees by 3 percent as a means to fund retirement. The money should have gone into the retirement system, but the Legislature used the money to balance the state budget instead of to reduce the pension plan’s unfunded liability.

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