Court Turns Says State Employee Must Contribute to Retirement
January 18, 2013 | WMFE - The Florida Supreme Court has upheld a requirement that state workers put money into their own retirement plans. The justices handed down a ruling Thursday requiring state employees to continue contributing three percent of their salaries to their retirement funds. The state teachers union is blasting lawmakers for imposing what it calls a tax on working families.
Under a 2011 law, state employees are required to contribute three percent of their salaries to the state retirement system. It’s a move that a number of unions, including the Florida Education Association, call unconstitutional. The FEA, the state’s largest teacher’s union, took their claims to court.
Since then, the state has been collecting that money and now the court’s ruling means the state won’t have to pay it back.
State Senate President Don Gaetz says that’s good news for Florida taxpayers.
“If it would have gone the wrong way it would have crippled our state budget and caused deep draconian cuts in education and healthcare and other critical services of our state.” Gaetz said.
If the court had ruled against the law, it would have left legislators scrambling to fill a nearly two billion dollar budget gap. So far, about a billion dollars have been collected from public employees.
Sen. Gaetz says the payments will help to ensure the solvency of the state pension system but Florida Education Association attorney Ron Meyer says that claim is bogus because, he claims, the Florida retirement system is one of the best the country.
“Senate bill 2100 had nothing to do with funding the pension program.” Meyer said. “It was all about making up a budget deficit on the backs on state workers.”
Meyer says there’s no appeal to the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling so, he says, the union’s best bet is to encourage lawmakers to pass a new law that would reverse what he calls the “pension tax.”
Meanwhile, Meyer says he hopes the state will use the money to give state employees a pay bump. State workers haven’t received a raise in seven years and Governor Rick Scott has already talked about the idea of offering merit raises for state employees.