Firefighters: Retirement Of Florida Public Employees In Jeopardy

February 16, 2013

A proposal to change the retirement benefits of public employees, such as teachers and firefighters, is gaining momentum in the Florida House of Representatives.

House Bill 7011 would force all public employees hired by agencies participating in the Florida retirement system after next January into a 401(k)-style plan, instead of the current pension plan.

Gary Rainey, president of Florida Professional Firefighters, says lawmakers are pushing this through without understanding all the consequences.

“Frankly, I don’t think they really care, for the most part,” he said. “The fact that nine Republicans on the committee would vote to do this without having the first numbers saying this is going to cost an exorbitant amount of money, or it’s going to save us money.”

Other states, including New Hampshire and Nevada, considered a similar plan recently, Rainey said, but abandoned it after they realized it would cost the state more instead of saving money. Part of the problem, he said, is that phasing out the pension plan also would reduce the money being paid into the plan for existing workers, and force the state and local municipalities to foot the bill.

Closing the current pension plan would also end benefits such as life insurance or death benefits if employees are hurt or killed in the line of duty. Rainey said death benefits of a newly hired firefighter killed in the line of duty under the 401(k) plan could offer his or her family less than $1,000.

“Not providing any type of disability or death benefit or survivor benefits for families is unconscionable by anyone who is proposing to do this,” he said.

According to the Florida Retirement Security Coalition, no tax increase is needed to fund the current system, which is 86 percent funded. If lawmakers move to the 401(k) plan, the coalition said, tax increases may be necessary.

Opponents of the current pension plan insist that it places a demand on the state budget.

By Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service – FL


12 Responses to “Firefighters: Retirement Of Florida Public Employees In Jeopardy”

  1. Divemedic on April 23rd, 2013 10:10 am

    After 23 years in emergency services, I retired in 2011. I was making $19.27 an hour. My pension was part of the reason that I stayed as long as I did. When you are young, you get into public safety for the excitement and the adrenaline. As you get older, that excitement fades. What keeps you is the light of that pension at the end of the career tunnel.
    Take that away, and you are left with a dangerous job with low pay and few benefits. That means that people will leave to pursue safer, more lucrative employment.

  2. 429SCJ on February 19th, 2013 4:38 am

    I would suggest a different career path to young people.

    Let these despots fight their own fires and answer their own emergency calls.

    We have our own volunteer fire departments., We can assemble our own vigilance response to deal with crimminals, we don’t need those bums in state government,
    or federal for that matter.

  3. Mike on February 18th, 2013 9:54 am

    Speaking from the experience of a 30 year paid, 6 year vol. firefighter, I can say that I put myself in jeopardy without thought many times because I knew my family would be taken care of if something bad happened to me. Most public employee pensions are social security replacement so if you eliminate them you have to enroll all these employees in social security, and start paying into social security for them, so where is the savings? Do the citizens really want their firefighters and police officers worrying about their own family’s financial security when they are faced off with an armed robber or somebody trapped in a burning house?

  4. David Huie Green on February 17th, 2013 4:50 pm

    “- – - the pension benefits are the only thing keeping them in those jobs. Another example of government breaking its promise to the public.”

    At least this time they’re talking about changing the reward for future employees rather than deciding to steal from current employees. That way they will not have broken a promise — this time.

    If it’s a good thing, they will continue to get people to go to work for the state.
    If it’s a bad thing, people will find jobs elsewhere and they will wonder why nobody wants to go to work for them.

    David for honest government and wise judgment
    (we’ve already tried it the other ways)

  5. Govt Groan... on February 17th, 2013 7:58 am

    @ Chris….
    HELLO….the ones who are very much “dependent” on the government are usually our many times elected “leadership”.
    I think the chicken regulation article says a whole mess of good things about how our county commish “think”.
    Not just the county…anybody read about the “Community Maritime Park” being in the red financially? Much to my surprise, DUH NOT.
    Public employees have service jobs and many are terribly underpaid and the pension benefits are the only thing keeping them in those jobs. Another example of government breaking its promise to the public.

  6. EscFlaResident on February 17th, 2013 7:38 am

    To Chris-
    They are not living off of the govt! They are working people with benefits, just like anybody in the private sector. I appreciate each and everyone of them, they teach our children, protect our families and save our homes. Thanks for all you do, you don’t deserve anything taken away!

  7. nomoretakenaway on February 16th, 2013 11:43 pm

    to: chris1— when your house is on fire you call firefighters … when you are getting your butt kicked or stabbed or someone is stealing your things you call the police … if you get hurt you call ems …. and when you needed to learn it was the teachers that taught you. So trying to compare us to the lazy non-working people that do live off the government is an insult to everyone of us. You just better hope that we don’t take that extra minute or two to get there to help you so you don’t lose your things or life. And lets hope that your government doesn’t try to take anymore away from us or you might have no one there to help you in your time’s of need!!!!!!

  8. chris1 on February 16th, 2013 1:22 pm

    Let them pay their own way. LIKE THE REST OF US.
    Way too many too dependent on govt.

  9. Keith on February 16th, 2013 9:25 am

    My son and daughter are public safety professionals and they are making wages that a high school dropout would make at a hamburger joint. It is insulting that they are paid a paltry salary and on top of that, being subjected to the fear of having benefits slashed or removed.

  10. Robert S on February 16th, 2013 8:15 am

    Our lawmakers at last check paid $8.00 per month for health care. Am just guessing they keep that after retirement or being voted out of office. They also get very fat retirement benefits and perks.
    These elected — by US — representatives may be down to earth and regular folks when elected but soon morph into greedy power hungry and “better than their constituents” leaders. To them, those who put them into office are the unwashed masses and not worthy.

  11. Allen Willis on February 16th, 2013 7:56 am

    They never think about cutting their own benefits to save money, but have no problem cutting benefits of the people who elect them.

  12. dad on February 16th, 2013 5:45 am

    Republican politicians seem to be in a hurry to drive this country into a class system of serfs and rulers. No pension plans anymore, no tretiree benefits. The middle class has kept this country afloat. Now they want to kill it. Take your money and gamble it in the stock market (401K). Maybe it’ll work out maybe it won’t. If it doesn’t, oh well too bad old folks.