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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott compares Florida pension fund to Social Security crisis



Gov. Rick Scott's Q-and-A sessions with state workers are getting friskier.

Scott heaped praise on workers at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation today, but it didn't stop two questions (one of which received applause) about the impending benefit cuts he's planning for teachers, law enforcement and other state employees.

"Do you fully realize the gross unfairness of that proposal?" one worker asked Scott.

Scott said a change was needed and that, "You never know exactly what's fair."

"Right now your plan in underfunded, whether anyone wants to acknowledge it or not," Scott said. "So whoever the youngest is, everyone else should thank them because there might not be a pension plan, just like we're worried about Social Security."

Scott didn't mention the pension fund is about 88 percent funded - among the best in the country - while Social Security is scheduled to start paying out more than it takes in as soon as 2014.

Instead, Scott said both government and the private sector have less money to spend "and you guys all cause it."

"As an example, you all shop at WalMart, right?" Scott said. "You don't say, 'Golly, I'm going to buy the product because they have a better pension plan or better health care plan or pay more taxes. You say, 'I'm going to buy based on price.'

"That's what taxpayers are doing now," he said. "They're moving around the country to pick states where they can keep more and more of their dollars. So what we've got to do ... we've got to figure out how to get more efficient every day."

A female worker was cheered when she asked this follow-up: "How do you expect employees to pay for these increases when we ourselves have not had an increase?"

Scott said one of every eight Floridians have no job at all.

"I would never defend that any compensation is ever fair for anybody, especially the hardest working people," Scott said. "It's never fair and it never will be fair."

Scott said he had to perform a "balancing act" between taxpayers and to state employees.

"I know everybody here probably has a bigger job than they had years ago," Scott said. "And I'm very appreciative. And I know that any change if frustrating. I'm going to do the best I can to be fair."

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 3:47pm]


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