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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House committee votes out bill to cut employee salaries 3 percent to pay for retirement



After listening to more than 30 members of public sector workers over three hours, the House State Affairs Committee voted out its version of the state pension bill which will cut the salaries of 655,000 state and county workers, including public school teachers, by three percent. The savings would be steered into into the Florida Retirement System as a way to balance the state budget.

The deepest tensions of Florida's troubled economy surfaced during the emotional debate, as the bill was passed along a party line vote. Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, criticized the governor for claiming the change was being demanded by the public. "Winning by .5 percent is not a mandate by the State of Florida,'' he said. "To say the people of Florida want this, I know there are 650,000 who don’t...This is not a problem, it's only a problem because somebody does not like the fact that the private sector is not getting.''

Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, countered, saying that he has personally taken a 50 percent pay cut from his roofing business and is now considering refinancing his house to stay in business. "The state has 1 million people that are out of work,'' he said. He added that he appreciates the work of the police, firefighters and paramedics, especially those who came to his home last week to help his daughter. "I  just hope we all consider outside our own litte world what is happening in the State of Florida."

Other members of the committee said they are small business owners, Rep. Steve Crusafulli , a Merritt Island real estate broker and agribusinessman said, "I don't know many people who are retired.'' He noted that his 67-year-old father is still working and that his grandmother died on a tractor and that his company has gone from 100 workers to 5. "Look at this in a bigger frame work and know that the other option is being laid off,'' he said.

Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, called the bill an income tax on state workers and asked why the governor was able to pay more for his public sector workers more than their predecessors. "The answer is they're not equal,'' because their jobs are paid more than the public sector. "

Although the measure is not designed to increase the amount of money going into the FRS, nor does the Legislature expect to pay off any of the $496 million in its unfunded liability, several Republicans on the committee continued to argue that the bill was needed to avoid requiring future taxpayers to bail out a deficit.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 11:13am]


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