3% State Employee Pension Headed To Supreme Court

March 17, 2012

A circuit judge’s ruling invalidating the state’s 3-percent employee pension contribution requirement will be decided by the Florida Supreme Court, an appellate court ruled Friday, passing the issue straight up to the state’s highest court.

In a short memo, the First District Court of Appeal said it would not rule on a decision made last week by Tallahassee Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford that invalidated a state law passed last year that requires employees to pay 3 percent of their salaries toward their retirement plans.

Saying the issue was of great public importance, the appellate court urged the Florida Supreme Court to step in now instead of waiting for the inevitable appeal after a ruling at the DCA level.

Friday’s announcement drew quick praise from the Florida Education Association, which sued over the pension contribution requirements.

“We’re pleased that this case will move more quickly toward its final resolution,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “This could help hundreds of thousands of middle-class Florida families who have seen their incomes tumble while the governor and legislative leaders handed out tax giveaways to corporations.”

Last week, Fulford barred the state from requiring employees hired before July 1, 2011, to contribute 3 percent of their income to their retirement plans. Her ruling also struck down a portion of the law that would reduce the cost-of-living increase for those employees.

Opponents of the law said they expect the state to continue withholding the 3 percent until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the issue.

The provisions struck down by Fulford’s decision were expected to save the state $861 million a year — money that would eventually have to be paid back if the appeal fails. It would cost counties around $600 million a year to have the changes reversed, likely leading to service cuts at the local level, according to local governments.

Gov. Rick Scott and the lawmakers who pushed the provisions in last year’s session said the changes were needed to bring public workers’ pension plans in line with the private sector and help patch a multibillion-dollar hole in the state budget. But Fulford said that was not a good enough reason to ignore a law that essentially casts the pension plan as a contract between the state and its workers.

“The Court cannot set aside its constitutional obligations because a budget crisis exists in the State of Florida,” Fulford wrote. She added that ruling for the state “would mean that a contract with our state government has no meaning, and that the citizens of our state can place no trust in the work of our Legislature.”

Scott told reporters last week that Fulford’s ruling “doesn’t make any sense” and said she had overstepped her bounds.

“This is writing the laws of the land,” Scott said. “That is wrong. And I’m very comfortable this will be held to be constitutional.”

By The News Service of Florida


20 Responses to “3% State Employee Pension Headed To Supreme Court”

  1. rdesab on August 4th, 2012 6:59 am

    Well, remember when the CEOs who got bailed out and were still doing a crappy job but got their million dollar bonuses? They still got their bonuses! Why? Because “it was in their contract!” Now we Public Workers have to pay into a pension fund that, by the way, was healthy. The judge overturned this. Why? Because it was in our contract! The State of Florida signed a contract with us saying we would not have to pay into our pension funds. If some out there find this unfair, then so be it. But it’s a contract, and it can’t be broken. I don’t seem to remeber a similar outcry against the CEOs as I heard about the one raised about our pension. And by the way, there goes Rick Scott again, pitting private and public sector workers against each other when he claims he’s doing this to bring public sector pensions in line with private sector ones. There was no such concern curing the boom years when private sector employees were doing very well indeed. And meanwhile, Rick, his legislature, and his Wall Street buddies laugh all the way to the bank while we middle class workers fight with each other.

  2. Paul Loesch on May 4th, 2012 11:10 am

    Lets file a civil suit against Rick Scott make him get his personal checkbook out .to pay the bill for his mistake. He should have known what the law was. This was a blatent abuse of his power. It’s a known fact Florida State Pension fund is the most lucrative pension plan in the country.This is what you get for hiring a non convicted criminal.Again the rich putting the burden on the backs of the middle class.Lets look at the state employees making $170,000 a year and paying no premium for health benefits for their entire family. Then continue to get them when they leave office.Collecting a full pension for a short amout of years served(where’s that public info hiding) Plus all the other perks and by the way where is the publics information about the perks found(gas money,lunch deductions,how many hours worked a week,out of town trips,plane fare etc…not enough room). I make $30,000 a year and pay $600 a month for benefits . Yes I am happy to have them but where is the equality. Sometimes I wonder if this is a smoke screencreated by the well off higher ups to divert where the focus really needs to be? I want my 3% back.

  3. Michael Dennis on April 27th, 2012 8:39 am

    If you are going to compare state workers to the private sector as far as benefits are concerned you must also compare salaries that state workers get in comparison to the private sector. We start off with 25-35 % less then the private sector and receive no increases in pay no matter how good a job we do are how many extra hours we work. The only real benefit we get has now been reduced by 3%. If the state gets what they want, then watch out. The flood gates will open up to every citizen of the state. You will have no rights. It will no longer be a democratic state. It will be a dictatorship. The next will be a 10% sales tax on everything including food. Then a state income tax. This is just the begining.

  4. Anna on April 16th, 2012 8:48 pm

    State of Florida Employees does not make any money, so why cut 3 percent? They robbed us with Insurance, 1 person fifty dollars, 1person and 1child you pay one hundred and eighty dollars, and also 3 percent. State Employees have not gotten a raise for over 6 years now. I keep seeing cuts but no increase. It is easier for a person to be all for the 3 percent especially when their paycheck was not affected. No one asked to be a single parent, but as a parent, I have to think about the best interest for my child. When you have 2 incomes in an household or make an income that provides for you and your family, it is much easier to agree with three percent, working for the state there is nothing free, you get a paycheck once month, and by the time you finish paying for taxes, 3percent, insurance, disability, vision, dental, accidental, Insurance, you wind up spending 600 dollars of your paycheck. Now the State can treat their employees a little bit better. How do you expect a person to survive, when your Employees are treated with no respect?

  5. Albert on March 21st, 2012 9:06 pm

    I went to the grocery store the other day and bought a gallon of milk. The expiration date was March 30th but to my dismay two days after I bought the milk it went sour at no fault of mine. Now do I take the milk back and get the grocer to honor the date or do I just pour it out and then cry about the spilt milk. I guess if I was BarrineauParkDad I would just drink the sour milk and just be glad of it…..

  6. Scott Lassiter on March 19th, 2012 5:07 pm

    BarrineauParkDad – I bet when your house is on fire, or a armed criminal is breaking into your house, The public servant who shows up at your door will be worth every penny of your tax money then, won’t they ?

  7. 429SCJ on March 19th, 2012 1:10 pm

    Government and Paradox appear to walk hand in hand, or is it the other way around?

  8. David Huie Green on March 19th, 2012 11:40 am

    ” RICK SCOTT IS NOT TO BLAME, YOU PEOPLE ARE! You voted for him. Dry it up already”

    Based on what was said by assorted people prior to the election, I doubt most of his current detractors were his supporters in the first place. I distinctly got the impression correctional officers weren’t in love with him. (some of them were just mad he wasn’t where they thought he should have been — under THEIR care)

    I do agree he is what he always presented himself as being.

    David for good boys

  9. 429SCJ on March 19th, 2012 9:43 am

    I got a good laugh at how Gov Scott rewarded the Florida State Police for their endorsment. A gentleman called the other day, soliciting funds for the FHP, I just politely suggested he call his buddy Ricki Scott. Why do people vote for jokers like Scott and then just incessantly cry in their cornflakes, that he is not doing right by them. It is like marrying someone you know is going to cheat on you. You know you are making a mistake and do it anyway. RICK SCOTT IS NOT TO BLAME, YOU PEOPLE ARE! You voted for him. Dry it up already.

  10. No Excuses on March 19th, 2012 8:24 am

    Sounds just like the lottery back in the 80’s – vote “Yes!” for education. What happened? We were duped. The state budget setters promptly took much of the education budget out of the general fund and used lottery revenue to replace it. Education was no better off than before, and in some cases worse off. So, we got the lottery based on a lie. Those ads that read “X billion to edcuation since 1983″ aren’t lying – they just aren’t giving you all the facts. What a spin!
    The 3% pension contribution should go to FERS AND it should only be for NEW employees!

  11. sktmax on March 18th, 2012 7:29 pm

    Here are a few points that alot of people are unaware of:

    1) When the 3% contribution was implemented, the FRS had its best year in 20 years.

    2) Rick Scott said again just last week, that the FRS is going broke. However, I am a public employee, and my last statement said FRS is 87% funded (which is one of the healthiest in the nation).

    3) If you were familiar with the lawsuit, you would know, the 3% contributions were not even going into the FRS. They were not going into their retirement account or any other FRS account. They were going to the general fund in order to help balance the budget. ( Thats what alot of state employees have issues with).

    Keep in mind the judge said employess that started after a certain date will continue to contribute.

    If I could contribute to my retirement, in order to have a healthier retirement, I would contribute much more than 3% and many of my co workers feel the same.
    **But there is nothing in this legislation or lawsuit that gives state employees the OPTION of contributing MORE in order to better their retirement, and better the FRS.

    Its just another attempt to balance the budget on the backs of state employees under the guise (LIE) of a bankrupt FRS. And meanwhile, the campaign of making public employees look evil and greedy continues to work, thus making it easier to implement similar measures in the future.

  12. RD on March 18th, 2012 5:38 pm

    BarrineauParkDad on March 17th, 2012 2:08 pm – That would bring state employee’s in line with the real world.

    First, and foremost, I do not believe that it is correct to compare the job of some STATE workers to the private sector (real world?). We actually do work IN the REAL WORLD. However, our REAL WORLD includes the worst people that society has to offer. Now, I’m not saying that every inmate is bad. However, there are inmates that should NEVER see freedom again. This is the WORLD that we work in. Secondly, we agreed to take the risk and work there and the State agreed to compensate us in return with a combination of pay, insurance, & retirement. Maybe you feel that we are taking up too many of YOUR tax dollars but you must know that WE pay taxes also. Therefore, we contribute to the funding that pays our salary. If you still believe that we are over compensated, then apply for a job. But remember, we don’t get paid for what we do on a daily basis or for what we deal WITH. We, like many other public servants get paid for what we may have to do. We deal with what society doesn’t want to.

  13. Concerned citizen on March 18th, 2012 11:09 am

    I agree with you proud 2 serve ….he should be held liable for this whole mess !

  14. sunshine on March 18th, 2012 10:58 am

    to: sickofmorons

    You are exactly right. If I was just being hired today, I would gladly pay the 3% into my retirement, but 30 years ago it was not in my contract. Just like buying a car (contract), buying a house (contract), and employment (contract) I also feel it is unconstitional to make us pay 3% now. This should be for new employees as part of their contract.

  15. SICKOFMORONS on March 18th, 2012 9:11 am

    To: Barrineauparkdad

    First of all, your comments are rude and uncalled for, State workers were offered
    certain benefits upon being hired, I for one looked into several jobs back in 1980
    to start a career, some had better health plans, some paid more money, but the job I took with the STATE, offered an overall better plan for me and my family, and
    my retirement if I stayed 30 years would be comfortable, not the best but comfortable. Gov Scott came in when I was fixing to retire and changed what I was promised. I have been with the State all this time, worked weekends and holidays, and was away from my children during hurricanes, never knowing how
    they were for hours on end, but this is what I signed up for, my choice to accept this job and SERVE the citizens of this state to the best of my ability, no complaints there…..but Gov Scott came in and changed everything I have been working so hard for, that is just wrong…no whining here…just pissed, all these years and now what, my pay is less now tha it was 6 years ago …hmmmm

  16. David Huie Green on March 17th, 2012 10:36 pm

    “Stop whining, go to work and be glad you have a job.”

    Try to understand that people are employed at an agreed upon rate. The agreement or contract basically says, “For this job, I will reward you with these things until the contract expires.”

    It may be a good agreement or a bad agreement but it is an agreement. Part of the agreement was who paid what into the pension.

    If the boss said, “I don’t like the agreement, so I’m laying you off or firing you,” that would be breaking the agreement but at least being honest about it. He could offer to hire you back at a lower wage or lower benefits and that would be honest

    However if the boss said, “I’ve decided I’m paying you too much so I’m taking ALL of your pay back. Just be glad you have a job — even if it unpaid,” that would be work without pay, similar to slavery without the benefits of food, clothing and shelter (such as they were) and .would obviously foolish to anyone.

    If the boss instead says, “I’ve decided I’m paying you too much so I’m taking part of your pay back — be glad you have a job,” that would be stealing and is dishonest but for some reason, this isn’t obvious to those who think stealing part of the pay is okay.

    David for honest government
    honoring its word

  17. sunshine on March 17th, 2012 8:11 pm

    I don’t mind contributing 3% to my retirement fund; however, a contract should be held to the law. Employees hired in years past should not have their contracts violated. Now if someone is hired knowing they have to pay 3% then that is fine. Also most of us have a 401K in addition to the Florida Retirement.

  18. BarrineauParkDad on March 17th, 2012 2:08 pm

    Don’t want to contribute to your own retirement? OK lets just do away with the pension all together and start a 401K with a 50% match up to a 6% of your pay contribution.Then you’ll have to contribute to get any of the state’s (read taxpayer’s) money. That would bring state employee’s in line with the real world. It is very rare to find an employer offering a pension today.

    The state is just like any other business or individual. If you don’t have the money to maintain your current status, you bring in more money (taxpayers will say “NO”) or you make cuts. From what I can tell in state and local agencies, there is a lot of dead wood that a for profit would have cut long ago.

    Stop whining, go to work and be glad you have a job.

  19. 429SCJ on March 17th, 2012 6:15 am

    I guess Scott just seemed like a good idea at the time, for so many, as so many things often do, at the time. The only thing I can say is take your medicine.

  20. Proud 2 Serve on March 17th, 2012 3:37 am

    If I make a poor choice during my tour of duty, I can be held liable for that choice if someone files a lawsuit. Governor Scott should pay the “$600 Million” that it will take to reverse HIS poor choice. if this passes through the supreme court, a lawsuit on behalf of the citizenry of the state of florida should be filed.

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