Teachers, police, firefighters, and thousands of state, city and county employees have been contributing 3% of their paychecks to their pensions since July 2011. Last year, a circuit judge ruled the taking was illegal and ordered a refund but now the Florida Supreme Court says it was okay.
Matt Puckett of the Florida PBA isn’t happy, or surprised. "This is going to be difficult for the officers. I think it was because of the circuit court decision there was hope that this may be reversed."
The decision was 4-3.
What the court said in a forty-eight page opinion is if the legislature couldn't start asking for 3% going forward, it could never change any benefit plan.
Tax revenues are slowly recovering; State Senator Alan Hays calls the decision a relief, freeing cash the state does not have to refund. "From the practical standpoint, Mike, it says that we now don't have to be concerned about trying to make up the billion dollars in revenue decrease that we would otherwise would have to made up."
Florida TaxWatch calls the decision good for taxpayers.
"What it means is you don't have fiscal handcuffs. You can make changes," said Dominic Calabro.
Florida Teachers say they will continue the fight to the 2014 ballot box.
"We're going to have to have a focus on changing the politicians in Tallahassee who don't care about working Floridians," said Andy Ford.
State employees have not had a raise in six years.
The decision allowing the state to keep the 3% opens the door for lawmakers to negotiate pay raises with the cash they don’t have to return.