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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Roche: Scott's pension plan Enron-style government?

14

March

 A bit out of charactor for a Republican spending hawk, Pinellas County Commissioner Norme Roche recently has been lashing out at Gov. Rick Scott's position that public employees should contribute 5 percent to the state pension plan.

Roche, who campaigned against government overspending, has compared the Scott proposal to Enron management and complained that public workers are being hammered unfairly. A week ago, he stood with former School Board member Nina Hayden and Pinellas Commission Ken Welch -- both are Democrats -- at a Largo event to support public workers.

 "When you’re talking about it being taxpayer money, of course it is. But it’s also taxpayer services. It’s sort of the demonizing of the public sector worker that I’m worried about," Roche said Monday.

Roche's support actually isn't altogether unexpected. He is a former county utilities employee and served on the Employees Advisory Council, which represents workers. County workers under the commission also aren't represented by unions, unlike sheriff's officers.

In Pinellas' case, Roche said the county plan calls for contributions "on behalf" of the employee. Because those workers receive lower wages than similar workers elsewhere, he said, that pension contribution is a trade off for paying Pinellas employees less. So Roche said it's not fair to say the employees don't contibute to their pension (although the county human resources department says Pinellas pays " the total contribution.")

Roche also said he's not opposed to asking employees to contribute from take home pay, but he doesn't want it done to "raid" pension funding to pay for other budget decisions by the state. Roche said he's asked county attorneys to see if there's a way the county can receive contributions back if that's the case. He has suggested that kind of financing has put some Enron managers in jail.

"If we don’t stand up for our employees, make no mistake, someone else will," he said.

[Last modified: Monday, March 14, 2011 3:52pm]

    

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