Judge Rules Pension Contribution Requirement Unconstitutional

A Leon County judge has overturned a 2011 law requiring public employees to contribute three percent of their salaries toward their pensions.

Judge Jackie Fulford is also ordering the Florida Retirement System to refund the money collected since July. Legal maneuvering is likely to put the refund on hold, however.

More than 560,000 public employees have been contributing three percent of the salaries toward their pensions since July.

The judge found lawmakers violated a 1974 law that gave workers a fully funded pension as part of their employment contract. The ruling does not affect pension contributions by employees hired after July first.

Ron Meyer of the Florida Education Association, which brought suit against the 2011 law, was ecstatic.

“The court today said that a promise is a promise, a contract is a contract," he said.

Private attorneys were hired by the state and paid nearly $500,000 to defend the new law in court. They refused to comment following the ruling.

Some public employees, like Paul Brewer, said living on three percent less has been painful.

“Close to $2,000 a year is what we lost last year, and anybody in this economy knows what $2,000 can buy," he said. "That’s like your groceries and gas money.”

Lawmakers are labeling the judge an activist, even though she was appointed by a Republican governor.

But Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the teachers union that brought the suit, said the ruling sends a message to lawmakers and the governor.

“They have decided in this state over and over again to provide tax relief to big corporations, the people who put contributions into their campaigns, and it needs to stop,” he said.

The ruling isn’t likely to be the last word on the pension contributions. The case is certain to be appealed, and with the final decision coming from Florida’s Supreme Court.

The judge has ordered the state to refund the nearly $900 million it has collected so far. The refund will likely wait, however, until all appeals are finished.

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  • by George on Mar 9, 2012 at 08:12 PM
    The GOP has enough sense to know we can't continue to spend money we don't have unless we're willing to bury our children and grand children under a mountain of debt. I hope those of you who want to continue on this path understand that when the Dems break the back of this economy we will all live under the oppression of a Socialist system. You'll work where they want you to or be shot and you'll be compensated with whatever they think you need. I can't believe people who inherited the greatest economic system in the world are dumb enough to go down this road.
  • by Mike Location: pc on Mar 9, 2012 at 04:03 PM
    It's obvious. The GOP breaks contracts. You need to quit voting for crooks. They do it everytime and could care less about the middle class or poor. When is the last BILL you saw the GOP push that helps the poor? Answer. 30 years ago. The GOP has a war against unions, women, gays, teachers, veterans, the poor and middle class if you have't noticed. They no longer represent us. They only represent the rich, millionaires, billionaires and corporations and off shore shipping of US jobs for cheap labor.
  • by Tammy Location: volusia county on Mar 8, 2012 at 07:27 AM
    For those in the private sector that believe I should pay into my retirement, I chose my career based on the benefits that compensated for my pay rate. I entered into an agreement that my retirement would be paid by my employer and I as well pay taxes that funds my retirment.
  • by Lynda Location: Panama City on Mar 7, 2012 at 04:34 PM
    I do not feel it is right for the taxpayers of this state to pay for someone else's pension. For those that work a min. wage job should not help out someone that makes twice if not more money than they do and they certainly can not afford any sort of pension plan with a family to support. Our tax dollars need to be going to a program and not an individual(s). Our state would not be indebt if we did not have to pay these employees!
  • by Shelley Location: Panama City on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:47 AM
    Seems to me instead of downing state employees, the real gripe should be with the parties appealing it. This will more than likely be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, costing us alot more money than to comply with the Judge's decision. Wasteful! Whether you like/agree with the State employing our citizens, a contract is a contract and if you were fiscally affected by this you would certainly feel differently.
  • by s Location: Panama City on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:25 AM
    People need to understand we are talking about Teachers, Law Enforcement & Correctional Officers whom risk their life every day to keep you safe and Teachers who practically raise your kids. They are all underpaid to begin with and most make this career choice for the benefit package not for the pay. They deserve it and I'm glad they won....There are other places that the State can cut the budget...There are alot of people whom make no effort to work and they get alot of benefits such as food stamps, wic, unemployment, medicaid and so on.. Maybe we should look at being more strict in that area and I'm sure it would save a whole lot more than the 3 percent pension will...
  • by George Location: Panama City on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:15 AM
    Firing half is a good idea; but maybe we should fire all of them and then hire half of them back with a new contract.
  • by Toby Location: Panama City on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:24 AM
    I will have to gather that most of the above post are from people who are to ignorant to know that working as a state cop or correctional officer is a HIGH RISK position. When I received my w-2 it showed that my gross income was 28k for risking my life so that many ungrateful people can be allowed to complain that I get paid too much money. So before you start saying we owe you the tax payer something, find out what we really do.
  • by mike Location: blountstown on Mar 7, 2012 at 09:30 AM
    The legislature is digging in the wrong spot, a contract is a contract, so leave it alone. start with all these too sorry to work, living off food stamps, and selling them for .50 cents on the dollar, those collecting disability that dont deserve it, social security that never worked a day in their life, but out playing baseball and partying on the weekends, YOU know who you are, leeches of society, Yes we have too many state workers in my opinion in certain areas, but not enough in others, i work at a prison and when i started we had 3 officers watching 140 inmates in a dorm now we have 1 watching 180 inmates in a dorm, and thats with officers making $30,000 -$38,000 a year even after 25 years of service. and if you come to work every day and build your leave up, they want to take it at the end of the year,
  • by John Location: PCB on Mar 7, 2012 at 08:33 AM
    I think the employees of the State, should be very careful for what they wish for here. I think in today's economy I would agree to do like anyone else in the private sector and contribute to their owne retirement. I am sure if the courts rule against the State and makes them refund the money, the pink slips will come out is masses. So, all of the state employees saying this is wrong paying 3%, be careful. The state should do what all corporations are having to do, trim the fat. Get all of the middle managers that manage managers out of the way, focus on frontline employees, and streamline the organization. If I were a State employee I would be more than happy to hand over 3% to ensure my job was around that much longer. Also, if my math is right, the $ 900 million collected so far means that we have paid State employees in the range of $ 30 billion since July. So with the population at 19 million give or take, that means it costs each taxpayer $ 1570.00 since July for the employees. I for sure have not received $ 1500.00 worth of services from the State. Good Luck. Clean house and streamline.
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