Those of us who have chosen public service as our occupation and have read the papers and Internet news sources today, without surprise we have found out that newly elected Governor Rick Scott and the legislature have began their promised attack on public employees. Today 01-26-2011, Republican Representative Costello from Deland, FL filed HB 303 which seriously threatens the financial security of all Florida public employees. This bill starts by calling for the elimination of the “Heart Bill”, a law that provides protection to Firefighters, Police, and Correctional Officers if they become sick with certain illnesses and are unable to continue working.
The bill extends the retirement age several years, it greatly reduces the benefits paid out to retirees and forces new employees to join into a 401-k type retirement instead of a defined pension as it is today, it eliminates the “DROP” program which allows eligible employees to shelter retirement money and continue working for 5 years. It is very easy for professional politicians like our legislators or even a rookie governor like Rick Scott to claim that the economy is falling apart and that the problem is the Florida Retirement System, even after the State Board of Administration testified that the FRS is in good shape and improving. We have become so accustomed to accepting and never questioning our state government that they now can attempt to lie to us and laugh in our faces, then call us dummies and ask that we vote for them. Not to so fast Rick, not without a fight!!!
The reality is that the FRS is running at 87% capacity when just 80% is considered great, and there is currently 109 billion dollars available for retirees that no retirement system in the nation can claim. From the Georgia and Alabama borders to Key West, every single public employee, employed by the State, the Counties, School Boards, and many municipalities will be negatively affected if this bill becomes law. From the unskilled worker, to the University professor and everyone else in between we will all lose. This is without a doubt the biggest attack on public employees in my lifetime and probably in the lifetime of most public employees in Florida. One would ask why are they doing this to us and our families? And the answer can become very complicated, but it is truly a simple answer. You see the FRS is working and it is making money for its retirees and it has enough to pay its employees and keep the books far away from the red. On the other hand the super rich in this country who sit in their plush offices in Wall Street see this and wonder why can’t they have something like the FRS making money for them while their members get to have a 401-k that surely will not be even a fraction of what our pension would pay those of us in the FRS.
Think that the Wall Street boys could not get away with robbing us of our pension? Think again. Who would manage the FRS if it was all a 401-k? That’s right, Wall street would be running the 109 billion dollars that our fund currently has. Don’t let the crooks get away with it. We must get active and let our legislators, the governor, and the editors of all newspapers know how we feel.
Editorial written by: Rafael Gomez, Miami, Florida.
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