FLORIDA PUBLIC EMPLOYEES
Florida Republicans again look at closing state’s massive public pension system to new members
News Source: Naples Daily News
By Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News
November 22, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — Florida Republicans once again are taking aim at the Florida Retirement System, arguing taxpayers can save billions of dollars by closing the huge public employee pension program to new members and offering them a 401k-style investment plan.
The proposal, which is expected to be offered by House members in the coming legislative session, would preserve line-of-duty death benefits for law enforcement officers and firefighters, a move designed to appease lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle who have opposed the idea in the past.
House Spokesman Michael Williams said a bill would be created by a committee, although House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has not decided which panel.
“We’re just not sure where it will originate,” Williams said.
The state retirement system serves 621,000 Florida schoolteachers, firefighters, sheriff’s office workers and employees across the state’s 32 executive agencies. Another 346,000 are receiving benefits in retirement, according to a Senate bill analysis performed in June.
The analysis showed the state system has about $138.6 billion to cover active and retired employees, and would need another $21.5 billion to be fully funded. Florida’s pension system is funded at about 86.6 percent, above the 80 percent level state economists have defined as a healthy fund.
Florida ranks as one of the country’s healthiest public employee pension funds, with less unfunded liabilities than most states. But state Republicans believe the pension system should be funded at 100 percent, and closing the system to new members would help secure it financially, they argue.
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