Saturday, December 16, 2017
Politics

More changes to retirement plans of some state workers could be coming

TALLAHASSEE — On the last day of the 2012 session, state lawmakers voted to reduce contributions to the retirement accounts of 100,000 public employees, many of whom work in higher education or law enforcement.

The bill (HB 5005) passed both chambers by wide margins with little discussion and will soon reach Gov. Rick Scott, who said he has not decided whether to sign it.

The legislation reduces government contributions to employees enrolled in an investment plan, known as a defined contribution plan, as opposed to the traditional pension plan for public employees.

Police officers in the defined contribution plan, who are members of what's known as a "special risk" class, would see the state's contribution drop from 18.3 percent of an employee's salary to 12.3 percent.

The result is that employees in the plan will have less money available for their retirement than if the change hadn't been made.

"This is a drastic change," said Steve Klapka, a 25-year sheriff's deputy in Hernando County and longtime president of the agency's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge. "It's a disgrace, in my opinion. You can get a job at UPS, make more money and get a better retirement."

Klapka said he is near retirement, but younger officers who are still building a retirement nest egg will be hit harder by the change. He said Hernando deputies have not had a pay increase in more than four years.

Klapka said he met Scott last year when the governor attended funeral services for John Mecklenburg, a sheriff's deputy killed in a car crash. "I remember him saying, 'We've got to do more for law enforcement,' " Klapka said of Scott. "This isn't doing more for law enforcement. It's taking away."

The new rates are a side effect of changes legislators made to the pension plan last year, including requiring workers to contribute 3 percent of their pay to their retirement for the first time.

The changes match the reductions in employer contributions to the investment fund with those of pension fund members, so that the employer's costs are equal under both plans.

The bill would affect at least 103,345 employees. That was the number enrolled in the investment plan as of July 1, 2011.

"In all these bills, I have to look at how it impacts the budget," Scott said.

Scott's office has received emails from law enforcement officers urging him to veto the bill. Cpl. John Bartis of the Collier County Sheriff's Office in Naples said the bill will discourage future employees from switching from the traditional pension fund to the investment plan, in which employees manage their money.

Employers generally prefer defined contribution plans because the costs are more predictable.

"Based on these changes, it will be necessary for me to work much longer to make up the difference," Bartis told Scott in an email. "Sir, my family and I voted for you. We know changes had to be made to make government more efficient, but taking away from good, loyal, hard-working employees was the furthest thing I thought you would do."

The bill also reduces colleges' and universities' contributions to workers enrolled in an optional retirement program, or ORP, from 7.4 percent of an employee's salary to 5.1 percent.

The bill passed the House, 82-35, and the Senate, 34-2, on the session's final day.

Sens. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, and Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, cast the only dissenting votes in the Senate.

Ring said he could not get "good, clean answers" as to how the bill would affect employees of state universities and colleges who participate in optional retirement programs.

Fasano, the only Republican in the Legislature who voted no, said the bill surfaced in the final hours, and he wasn't convinced it was in the best interest of public employees.

He said he has since learned that about 100 employees of the Pasco Sheriff's Office could lose retirement benefits as a result.

"It's easier to explain a no vote than it is to explain a yes vote," Fasano said. "I had concerns."

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Updated: 5 hours ago
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases - including "fetus" and "transgender" - in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.Polic...
Published: 12/16/17
Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced amid her campaign.Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat...
Published: 12/16/17
Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17
With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Friday secured enough votes to pass the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, putting them on the cusp of their first significant legislative victory this year as party leaders geared up to pass a $1.5 trillion t...
Published: 12/15/17
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Published: 12/15/17
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Published: 12/15/17
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Published: 12/15/17
The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

WASHINGTON — As the spooling drama of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s White House departure spun into its 36th hour, Washington began asking itself: "Does it actually matter whether Omarosa quit or was fired?"Dumbest story ever," tweeted John Harwood, the...
Published: 12/15/17