Florida Pension Reform

TALLAHASSEE, Fla State workers retirement plans will be getting another heavy look this year in legislative session. Cops are speaking out against an overhaul.

Supers: Tallahassee

29-34 James Preston/Florida FOP President

46-55 Rep. Will Weatherford/(R) Pasco County

103-108 Matt Galka standup

109-114 Sen. Greg Evers/(R) Pensacola

Overhauling the 135 billion dollar Florida Retirement System has been House Speaker Will Weatherford’s top priority the past 2 years. Weatherford knows it won’t be easy.

Rep. Will Weatherford/(R) Wesley Chapel, "Last year we came up a little bit short, I think what we’re trying to do is find a balance.”

The proposal is getting strong opposition from the state’s biggest teacher’s union and now the nearly 20 thousand active members of the Fraternal Order of Police. The FOP is opposed to scrapping the current system for a cash balance option.

James Preston is the Florida FOP President. “You don’t tear your house down because there’s a threat of a hurricane; you shore up your house.”

The system is 86 percent funded, but Weatherford says the hurricane is the 500 million dollars a year the state contributes to pension plans unfunded liability. The money could be freed up to use elsewhere.

“Defined benefit in and of their nature usually don’t work. The state is having to divert money from the education system in this state to bail out of the pension fund.”

A cash-balance option would create an individual retirement account that workers would invest in. The state would still be responsible for losses.

Legislators who joined the police union said they would support a pension overhaul on one condition. Sen. Greg Evers/(R) Pensacola
“I feel that everyone here would support the bill if they all got a 50 percent pay increase (laughter)”

Senator Evers said that pay increase would happen “When it snows in Miami…tonight.”

Last year, state Senators narrowly defeated a pension overhaul, in part because the plan is one of the strongest in the nation.

The current system isn’t fully funded because lawmakers have failed to contribute to it in good years and borrowed from it in bad years. Police are concerned that even if they’re exempt from a new pension plan, closing the current system to a chunk of workers would destabilize it and put benefits in jeopardy for everyone.

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