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Q&A: Florida employees' pensions undergoing change

State workers' pensions change

I saw this in a recent story: "Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, pointed out that Florida is the only state in the nation that does not currently require employee contributions to their pensions." Is this true?

The sentence in quotation marks was included in a report from Sunshine State News. The state's largest teachers union filed a lawsuit to stop a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott that would require state employees to pay 3 percent of their salaries toward their pensions.

Sunshine State News is an online Florida service that, in its own words, "fills a void — and that is our principal reason for being. We are the only news organization in Florida with an editorial board that believes free-market, less-government solutions will prove successful in addressing the problems challenging our state. Our news stories deal with facts, but we are more than happy to espouse our opinion in columns."

Now, to your question. Gaetz is not entirely correct, but he's not far off. PolitiFact Florida, which is a partnership of the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald that examines and judges the truth of statements by politicians, looked into this in 2010 after Scott made the same claim.

PolitiFact Florida reviewed the state retirement systems of all 50 states and consulted with Ron Snell, the director of state services for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The story's conclusion, published Dec. 15, 2010: "Florida will be the only state, starting Jan. 1, 2011, where no one in the state retirement system is asked to contribute toward their pension. Two states — Virginia and Missouri — recently switched their retirement system meaning new hires will have to pay toward their retirement, but not existing employees. Michigan doesn't force its employees to participate either, but that state has a more private-sector-like 401(k) program. And Tennessee and Utah still do not require many of their state employees to contribute toward retirement, although other employees in those states do."

The statement was judged to be "mostly true."

Europe gas taxes jack up price

In U.S. dollars, what do people in the European Union pay for regular gasoline?

Gas prices and exchange rates fluctuate daily, so what we're presenting here is a comparison of rates on a certain day, which will be out of date but are indicative of the differences between what Americans and Europeans pay. The numbers were compiled by Airinc, which regularly monitors the prices of 500 items in various countries.

On a day when Americans were paying $3.59 a gallon, the equivalent cost in Norway was $9.27 a gallon, in Greece $8.50 a gallon, in Denmark $8.42 a gallon, in Sweden $8.18 a gallon and in the United Kingdom $8.17 a gallon.

The difference is primarily in taxes. In the United States, taxes make up about 11 percent of the cost. In some European Union countries, taxes are about 70 percent of the cost.

Q&A: Florida employees' pensions undergoing change 07/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 11, 2011 11:25pm]
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