FRS Reform, Will It Be The Star During The 2014 Governor’s Race

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Florida Public Employees

February 18, 2104

Pensions may star in governor’s race – the Public Employee partisan-divide.  As Republicans and Democrats line up for battle over their positions on the Florida Retirement System (pension plan), it’s we the members who have spent our careers working to serve Floridians that are caught in the middle.

Bill Cotterell

Bill Cotterell

Bill Cotterell of the reminds us of what has become a Party’s position on the so called push for “pension reform” in Florida:

Nobody gets elected to statewide office by promising to be the champion of state employees; in fact, running against bureaucracy is the smarter strategy.But in this town, we don’t think of running government like a business (it’s not one) but, rather, state government is the local business. If you take out the colored pencils and chart the county-by-county results after an election, the Gadsden-to-Jefferson swath will probably be an island of blue in a North Florida sea of red — due mostly to the state workers and employees of companies that depend on state government for the bulk of their sales.It’s not that the Big Bend is populated by a peculiar pocket of raging liberals. It’s just that, as in every other part of every other state, people vote their jobs and self-interest. And, up close and personal, perhaps we see government a bit more clearly than the tax-and-spend, wasteful image politicians find it easy to sell in other parts of Florida.

This is specially true in Democratic primaries.

Even before Gov. Jeb Bush came out with his “Service First” and “People First” initiatives — the first reorganizing the workforce and moving about 16,000 people from Career Service to Selected Exempt, the second outsourcing human resources services to Convergys — the Republicans had a well-earned reputation for considering every state employee’s salary a net subtraction from the common good. That leaves to Democrats the role of sticking up for organized labor, working folks and, essentially, becoming the party of government itself.

The Democratic primary for governor is going to be influenced by public employees — not just state workers, to be sure — and pensions are sure to be front-and-center in that debate. The Florida Education Association, a pillar of the party, last week came out against pending changes Legislators are very likely to make when the 2014 session starts, just two weeks from tomorrow.

Gov. Rick Scott is all for shaking up the Florida Retirement System, and it’s one of House Speaker Will Weatherford’s main goals for his final legislative session. Speakers and governors generally get what they want, especially when their party has a roughly two-thirds majority in both chambers, especially when they can point to examples like pension fiascos in Detroit and Illinois.

That Scott and Weatherford like it would be reason enough for Democrats to hate it. Their organized labor allies may be split. Currently, there’s an idea to “carve out” the police and firefighters — leaving the “special risk” FRS class untouched. Newly hired employees in other classes would be steered into either a 401(k) investment plan, a “cash-balance” option with some guaranteed payout, or a hybrid of the existing “defined benefit” and “defined contribution” plan.

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The question that remains:  Will Florida Public Employees unite to Vote against those who have imposed the “3-percent payroll tax on pensions that FRS members now pay”?

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