State of Florida proposed pension changes move forward

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Anger has been building since Governor Rick Scott first announced he wanted a five percent pension contribution from state employees who haven't had a raise in as many years.

It has been 36 years since the state took over all funding of the pension fund. Many see the contributions as a foregone conclusion.

"It seems like the word of the day up here is contributions," said correctional officer Jim Baiardi.

Under the House plan, everyone would pay 3% of their salary. The 3% would take more than $700 million in buying power out of the hands of public employees.

The Senate has a tiered plan:

2% for anyone making $25,000 or less

4% for salaries between $25 and 50,000

6% for anyone making more than $50,000

Even some moderate Republicans balked at the plan during floor debate.

"I'm not to be able to support a budget that balances itself on the backs of our state employees," said Lakeland Republican St. Sen. Paula Dockery.

The budget containing the contribution requirements passed 33 to 6.

What happens next is that House and Senate leaders will spend the next three or four weeks negotiating, trying to decide if the pension contribution is as low as two percent or as high as six percent.

Brevard Republican St. Rep. Ritch Workman has been handling the House plan. For now, he's not budging on a firm 3%. "Currently, their tiered plan is, I think, more harmful than the three percent across the board."

And while negotiations continue, public employees plan to keep the pressure on.

Opponents of the pension contribution pointed out the state will spend more than 700 million dollars next year buying right of way for roads. That's enough to cover the cash the pension contribution will bring in.

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