Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Unions try to protect money ahead of pending Florida pension changes

TALLAHASSEE — Unions challenging a law that requires government workers to contribute to their state pension starting today have asked a judge to sequester the money in a separate fund until the lawsuit is resolved.

Ron Meyer, an attorney for the Florida Education Association, told Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford in arguments Thursday that holding the employee contributions in a type of escrow account would protect the 550,000 people participating in the state retirement system.

A lawyer representing the state said that the contribution — 3 percent of an employee's salary — is better off in the state retirement fund, where it could earn returns of up to 20 percent.

Fulford did not immediately issue a decision, though one is expected quickly since the law goes into effect Friday.

The education association filed suit June 20, charging that the pension reform violates Florida statutes and the state Constitution. The Florida Police Benevolent Association and the SEIU Florida Public Service Union joined the teachers in the lawsuit.

Defendants are Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi, who serve as trustees of the State Board of Administration, which oversees Florida's $134 billion retirement fund.

Their attorney, Blaine Winship, said that the retirement fund could lose $45 million in returns if the employee contributions are held out.

"We are suggesting that the least damage will be done by letting that money go to the SBA," Winship said. "At least the money will have been garnering a good investment return in the meantime."

That money, he said, is necessary to maintain the health of the system and make continuing payouts to retirees.

Florida's pension is about 85 percent funded, making it relatively sound by actuarial standards. But Winship warned that could change if the employee contributions are diverted.

Meyer countered that the $45 million represents only a minuscule fraction of the fund's total assets, so the lost revenue should not affect the state's ability to make payments to retirees.

Winship said that if Fulford has any doubts about the outcome of the suit, she should not allow the "extraordinary remedy" of a temporary injunction.

Case law, he said, shows the Legislature clearly has the right to alter a contract going forward even for current employees.

During three hours of discussion, Fulford repeatedly and forcefully questioned Winship on how the state would pay back employees if the unions prevail.

"Aren't we just guessing that we'll have the money to put in there? What's the source?" she asked.

Winship replied it will be "the state's issue" to determine how to pay back the money if required.

Janet Zink can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Unions try to protect money ahead of pending Florida pension changes 06/30/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 30, 2011 11:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays Kevin Cash: "We've got to turn it around. ... Time is of the essence"


    The question to manager Kevin Cash was about a rematch with the Mariners this weekend at the Trop, but he made clear this afternoon that with his Rays losing nine of their last 12 that they have to treat every game as essential.

    "We've got to turn it around,'' Cash said. "You can only delay it for so long and …

  2. Should kindergartners be encouraged to conform to peer pressure? One Pasco school suggests so


    A Pasco County elementary school came under fire on social media Thursday for its new behavior expectation charts that suggest conforming to peer pressure is positive, and that running in school is anarchy.

    Deer Park Elementary School has posted this chart of student expectations. Some parents have complained about its terms, such as the suggestion that conforming to peer pressure is positive.
  3. Carnival announces five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba


    TAMPA — Carnival Cruise Line is adding five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba in 2018, Port Tampa Bay announced Thursday.

      Carnival Cruise Line announced additional cruises to  Cuba. Pictured is its Paradise cruise ship departing on its inaugural voyage to Cuba from Tampa. | [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
  4. Opponents gather to decry requiring private money for removal of Confederate monument


    TAMPA — Amid a flurry of debate over monuments to the Confederacy, local leaders and activists once again took to the Old County Courthouse grounds Thursday to call for the removal of a statue on Hillsborough County property.

    Tampa For Justice member Kelly Benjamin, right, leads a news conference in front of the Confederate memorial while protester Gary Snow, left, uses a bullhorn to try and disrupt the event Thursday. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  5. Rays, Bucs and Lightning join Dungy in donating to move Confederate monument


    The Tampa Bay area's three major league sports teams have pledged their financial support in moving a Confederate monument out of downtown Tampa.

    Tony Dungy in 2011. [Getty]