FL Governor Increases Fines for Debt Collection Abuses

Got debt?

Well, if you do and you haven't been keeping up with your payments, chances are you've heard a phone call that sounds a lot like this...

"The united states department of education has retained our services in order to collect its debt, which we understand you owe..."

With a tough economy forcing millions to take out new loans and break out those credit cards, debt collection calls are on the rise. All too often, collectors are breaking the law by posing as law enforcement officers, using profanity, even threatening violence.

So Thursday, Governor Scott and the state cabinet signed off on increasing the maximum fine from just $1,000 to ten grand.

"What you're looking for, you know, is an environment where someone signs obligations and they're held accountable for that, but there is a process by which and there's a rationale by which that every bit of this process is still dignified, every bit of this process has rules and boundaries," said Florida Chief Financial Officer Republican Jeff Atwater.

Debt collectors aren't the only folks being targeted at the capitol. The governor and cabinet are also taking aim at public employees.

In 15 days, they'll have to begin contributing to their own pensions, an effective pay cut. The 3 percent mandatory contribution is a Scott campaign promise, approved by lawmakers last month and put into effect by the cabinet Thursday.

It's a way of balancing a $4 billion budget deficit, but Rich Templin with the AFL-CIO calls it unfair to typically underpaid public workers.

"Our state is just not living up to its obligation, because it refuses to tackle this problem of an antiquated tax system," Templin said. "So, what do they do? They take it out of the hides of firefighters and teachers, and that's wrong."

But the economy hasn't just taken its toll on the workforce. It's also forcing state government to make some tough decisions.

The cabinet also discussed the state-run property insurance company, Citizens. The governor and his colleagues worry about the bills taxpayers would have to cover in the event of hurricane. They could be in the tens-of-billions if the company doesn't start dropping policies that can be picked up by the private market.

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