Will a Florida city become the next Detroit? A coalition of business and policy groups say we're on the verge of a bankrupt municipality if we don't act now.
Florida cities are on the hook for 11 billion dollars in unfunded local pensions. Robert Weissert with the Florida TaxWatch said, "We were actually told by Senator Wilton Simpson when the legislature failed to address this problem during this past session that what's probably best now for a Detroit to happen here in Florida, for a city to go bankrupt so people can understand the proportion of this crisis."
It's a growing problem with no solution. That's why Florida TaxWatch, the League of Cities, and other major policy groups came together to demand action. Scott Dudley with Florida League of Cities said, "We've made promises to our first responders, to police and firefighters, and we want to honor those commitments."
Not every city is hurting, but the group says the whole system is like a ticking time bomb, and if one goes, the rest will fall.
Bottom line is, if Jacksonville's pension system goes belly up, taxpayers in Tampa, and the rest of the state, are stuck holding the check. A bill was in place this past session that would have helped local pensions, but it was linked to a state level retirement overhaul, and both proposals died. Florida's house speaker isn't taking the blame, even though statewide reform was a top priority.
"I think there was a bill, whether or not the house would have supported it, that's to be seen. What I do know, is both state and local pensions need to be addressed," Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford said.
The group says they'll try to use last year's bill as a road map to form a better solution next session.
The coalition said first responders need to compromise, because if nothing gets done, it's possible many police and firefighters could wind up without retirement benefits.