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A Times Editorial

Florida taxpayers get played for turkeys

Gluttony isn't limited to the Thanksgiving table this holiday season. Seminole Community College president Ann McGee is set to become the latest official in Florida overfeeding at the public trough by double-dipping. She and the college's board of trustees apparently see no harm in treating the public like a bunch of turkeys. The only solace is that at least by July there will be some restrictions.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that McGee will get an early Christmas present on Dec. 1, a $409,000 lump sum payout from the state pension plan for "retiring." But on New Year's Day, with the blessing of the college's board, she'll be rehired and receive her annual $300,000 in salary and benefits. Plus, she will begin collecting an annual $160,000 pension from the Florida Retirement System.

Such a scheme will be illegal starting July 1. Florida lawmakers finally acted in the public interest this spring by taking steps to curb double-dipping. They barred pension payments to any retirement system member who retires and is re-employed by a retirement system-participating agency within six months. That should put an end to the absurdity of situations like McGee's. The Sentinel reported, for example, that the college car McGee drives will be parked on campus for the month of December. The briefly retired president said she will rent a car for that month. Maybe Santa can loan her his sleigh.

Defenders of double-dipping, including McGee, say they are just getting their due with no harm to the taxpayer. They argue if they really retired, someone else would be hired to take their place. But that ignores two key realities. Odds are a replacement employee would be younger and command a lower salary, and every dollar paid out of the pension fund affects the rate it charges taxpayers to keep the pension actuarially sound.

The college board's complicity, in a time of budget cuts for state government, tuition increases for students and 11.2 percent unemployment, is a violation of public trust. Its job is to protect the public's interest — not McGee's. Instead, they opted to pluck the taxpayer once again.

Florida taxpayers get played for turkeys 11/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 4:47pm]
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