Pension Feud

A hearing on the state pension lawsuit set for Friday was cancelled. Monday makes four months since a judge heard a challenge to the state requirement that employees contribute three percent of their salaries to their pensions. After the requirement took effect in July, employees called it an illegal pay cut, and took the case to court.

From heavy equipment operators to teachers to firefighters, more than a half million public servants have paid more than 800 million dollars toward their pensions this year. The required three percent levy began in July and has been in court ever since.

The sticking point is a 1974 law that says a fully paid pension is a contract. Back in October, employees argued the state could only change the contract for new employees

Ron Meyer is with the Florida Education Association. “We have a contract that the legislature made and the legislature now can’t simply get out of.”

A private law firm hired by the state has been paid almost a half-million dollars so far to handle the case. They told a skeptical judge the state could make any change, anytime it wanted.

Doug Hinson is an Attorney for the state. “The legislature does not have to go back to the bargaining table when it is deciding funding issues.”

After paying the three percent for almost a year, disgruntled employees came to the Capitol this past week. Heavy equipment operator Keith Dibell says the three percent contribution is another word for a pay cut. “If I was making 6 digits, I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad. But I’m not.”

Reporter: How much are you making?

“Do you really want to know? 27,000 a year.”

State lawmakers and the Governor originally sought to take five percent from employees, but they compromised after an outcry.

If the new pension contribution law is found to be unconstitutional, the state would have to pay back all the money it has collected from state workers. Friday the House Speaker said he doesn’t expect the state to lose the case, but if it does, the refund money would be available.

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  • by duane Location: florida on Feb 26, 2012 at 04:12 PM
    Our company employeed 41 people in 2011. Out of the 41 people 16 were ex state employees. Out of the 16 ex state employees, 14 were ex-corrections officers. 12 were suspended or resigned due to investigations of "misconduct". The number of "ex" state employees, that are still employeed with our company 0...... out of the remaining employees, only 2 have been terminated or quit. They too have to contribute to thier own retirement, but we match up to 11%. So basically all ex employees from the state, were terminated or quit! ALL 16 OF THEM!! Something wrong with these numbers!! All, but 2 of the remaining, are still very happily employeed, and contributing to thier own retirement!
  • by workingbackwards Location: Panmaa City on Feb 25, 2012 at 07:52 PM
    Dear George, Go ahead and fire us all! Then you can call a crackhead to your home invasion robbery,a fire a sick kid or parent..Dude,you are seriously warped!
  • by Mike Location: pc on Feb 25, 2012 at 05:21 PM
    The GOP breaks contracts! If you get a loan for 30 years for a mortgage at 6% and after 10 years the bank calls and says we just raised your mortgage to 9%, this is illegal as you have a contract. The GOP doesn't care. They break contracts. You should never vote for anyone in the GOP as they can NEVER EVER be trusted on ANY contract.
  • by MyMealTicket Location: Plantation, FL on Feb 25, 2012 at 04:04 PM
    "If the new pension contribution law is found to be unconstitutional, the state would have to pay back all the money it has collected from state workers."...[W/INTEREST]. You have to know the funds are sucking up more dollars from somewhere. <---a double-negative. And if they change the law for new employees only, it should stipulate whether or not future changes can be made to the contractual law.
  • by David Location: Okaloosa on Feb 25, 2012 at 03:33 PM
    Tell you what George I am a State Fire Fighter making 27,000 a yr after 10yrs service, I work in Walton & Bay Co. We do not get paid overtime we are forced to take it off hr for hr during a busy fire seasons we may work 2 weeks straight 12 to 16 hr days then forced to take any overtime off. It takes 1 yr to be fully trained to be able to fight fire so go ahead and fire us,who is going to do it then we are the only ones trained to do wildland fire, so instead saying fire us why don't you get all the facts before you run your mouth or better yet come do my job for week. If your not willing to do either then just shut your mouth
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 26, 2012 at 01:34 PM in reply to David
      "We do not get paid overtime we are forced to take it off hr for hr during a busy fire seasons we may work 2 weeks straight 12 to 16 hr days then forced to take any overtime off." Im not a law expert, but im pretty sure that violates the states labor laws. As far as i know, if you work over 40 hours per week, it IS over time, unless your work falls under the amusement park industry.
      • reply
        by State Worker on Feb 28, 2012 at 02:57 PM in reply to
        you misunderstood what he said, the state doesn't allow us to work more than 40 hrs a week, but sometimes you might have to work over one day, and instead of being paid for that time, you are flexed off. This isn't an option, the state will only pay overtime; if there is no way to avoid it.
  • by Bruce Location: FL on Feb 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM
    If i had to pay into a retirement system, i would rather pay into a 401k. If you pay into a pension fund for 4 or 5 years then loose your job, and you are required to have 6 years in, in order to be able to draw from it. You just left all of the money that you put into the system. At least with a 401k you will still have that money to take with you, or to leave to a loved one.
  • by George Location: Panama City on Feb 24, 2012 at 03:02 PM
    Let's fire all of them and those who still want a job can start over as a new employee.
    • reply
      by Jo on Feb 25, 2012 at 10:36 AM in reply to George
      Hey George, here's an take a job with the state and after about 15 years, start paying them to let you work, and see how you like it, you jerk!
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