Words From A Fellow Florida Public Employee

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February 19, 2013

Compelling words, shared for the purpose of providing greater public awareness.      

By: A Retired Florida Public Employees and Fellow Police Officer

Hello Brothers and Sisters of Law Enforcement:

I’ve spent the last twenty five years speaking on our behalf before the Florida Legislature, during their annual session as a Fraternal Order of Police Representative.  As my retirement began and days and weeks turned to years I continued to travel and share our observations and bewildered amazement of those we elect to voice our wishes in Tallahassee.  But ladies and gentleman both sworn and civilians, we have never faced a Florida State Congressional challenge we are realizing today.

First let us say; your FRS is financially sound and is considered one of the top 4 pension plans in the world, but it has nothing to do with your 3% contribution increase.  Instead, your 3% was used to reduce employer contribution.  Unknown is the fact the Florida Legislature used 12 billion pension surplus dollars over a 12 year period to reduce the employer cost of FRS.   Amazing fact is the legislature has failed to pay its UAL payment for 3 years and the FRS is still funded almost at 90%.  Our pensions are not extravagant; the average FRS annual payment is $18,000.

The 2013 session appears as a “waterloo” for FRS participates as several issues have demonstrated that not all Florida legislators have its state workers and retirees well being in mind.  The main sour note to arise is a call for the closure of the defined benefit plan to all future employees.

Many Republicans are talking about forcing new state employees into a 401k plan.  Unfortunately, statics state 67% of 401K contributors have borrowed against their individual plan.   Now you ask; what happens to those who remain in the old plan?  A national example is the state of Alaska which closed their defined benefit plan in 2006.  At the time of closure the plan was funded at 63%.  Contribution rates were projected to be 719 million for 2012, which is 33% of payroll.  Looking into the year 2016 contribution rates are projected to be 1 billion dollars which is 40% of payroll.  The plan is expected to hit peak cost in 2029 at $1.6 billion which is 40% of payroll.  Brothers and Sisters, this is only 16 more years in their careers.  Can you pay that match?  Michigan’s story is worst; they were funded at 109% in 1997.  Annually it rose from $229.5 million in 1997 to $447.9 million in 2011. New hires will be directly affected.  Death and Disability Benefits will be carved.   The Florida House of Representatives has requested the Department of Management Services to perform three actuarial studies to determine the fiscal impact on the state and other participating FRS employers associated with the following death or disability benefit options for investment plan participants as follows:

  1. Employees initially enrolled in the FRS on or before January 1, 2014 will not be eligible to elect to switch to the defined benefit plan for the purposes of receiving a disability benefit.
  2. Employees initially enrolled in the FRS on or after January 1, 2014 will be eligible to transfer to the pension plan for the purpose of receiving a disability benefit in the same manner as provided in current law.
  3. Providing in-line-of-duty survivor benefits for all members of the investment plan.  The department indicated the study will be completed by April4, 2013.

These are but a few of the areas of attack from those we placed in the Florida Legislature. It appears the Governor and his followers are attempting to balance the budget on the backs of the Florida employees.

What can you do?  If you care about your Brothers and Sisters you can inform yourself about these few major issues and many others and contact your state Senators and Representatives and ask their stand on The Elimination of the Florida State Defined Benefit Program.   Our Manatee County State Legislative Delegation are; Sen. Arthenia Joyner, Sen. Bill Galvano, Rep. Jim Boyd, Rep Darryl Rouson and Rep. Greg Steube. If when you ask them the question; “what is your stand on state employees defined benefits?”  Whether in public or privately you inform them your recording the conversation and your FOP will hold them to their respective answers.  We are videotaping our encounters.  I’m sorry it has come to these and other tactics, but whatever it takes.

It appears the target of our collective frustration is Representative Ritch Workman from Brevard County.  He has gone on the record and stated that being a fisherman or 7 eleven clerk is more of a dangerous occupation than law enforcement Officer.  My answer to Mr. Workman is:  Are the occupations you mentioned going to come to your aid and possibly take a bullet for you Representative Workman?

The FOP District meeting happens to be in Manatee County on March 7th at the FOP hall, meeting starts at 7:00 P.M.  Come listen to those who serve you, those who have walked the walk and now are preparing to talk the talk.  If you want to help, get involved and/or donate money to the FOP PAC fund.  Your lodge gave $1000.00 in Orlando to the PAC fund, your organization is preparing to go public with our concerns through the media; all those efforts will cost money.  We are gathering in the Capitol March 14, 2013, ask you to join us and hear firsthand the politically motivated demagogue.

 Special thanks to the State FOP for facilitating this heartfelt letter.

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