Florida Pension Reform Debate

A Florida Senate committee is getting to work on a bill that would reform the state's public pension system, and the issue could be a rallying cry for a union backlash.

Florida's grappling with an historic budget deficit, and the republicans who control the capitol are trying to find savings by overhauling the pension system, but they could be picking a fight in the process.

Tuesday, a powerful senate committee heard testimony on a bill that would affect local pensions, affecting mainly police and firefighters. Right now, they don't contribute anything to their retirement accounts, but the bill would mandate 401-K-style 'defined contribution' plans.

In effect, public sector workers would have to put 5 percent of their pay toward retirement.

Now, it's important to point out the local plans are funded primarily through local taxes, and Florida's police union complains lawmakers have no right to meddle in municipal business.

Some people have even said, 'Well, the unions have so much power. Broward County, we've got all this political power on our side, we have the collective bargaining rights on our side,” said John McNamara with the Council of Professional Fire Fighters. “With all due respect, I don't know what everybody's drinking, but if you really believe that, you're feeding into the sensational media headlines everyday in the paper.”

That's a not-so-subtle reference to the ongoing union protests in wisconsin.
Union officials here say they have no plans to hold a protest of their own - at least not yet.

Lawmakers also plan to reform the pension plan that covers state workers. Changes include eliminating the "drop program... Which allows workers to retire and begin collecting their pension... Then go back to work for the state... Essentially giving them 2 sources of income.


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