Saturday, June 23, 2018
Editorials

Pension promises still unmet

The slew of negative ads that Gov. Rick Scott ran two years ago about his opponent's role with the state public pension fund helped him win the election. Scott claimed that once he was on the job, all would be well for the Florida Retirement System's nearly 900,000 current and retired members. Yet, 21 months into the job, he has done little differently, and now outside advisers for a second year have warned the state it is investing too little to secure the pension fund long-term. It's time for the governor's actions to match his rhetoric.

Florida's pension fund remains relatively healthy compared to most states, but it still has not rebounded from billions lost in the 2008 financial crisis. Its nearly $130 billion in assets is enough to cover roughly 87 percent of its long-term liabilities. And changes in benefit accrual approved by the Legislature for state and some local government employees hired after July 1, 2011, will reduce the state's liability decades from now. That hasn't stopped Scott from repeatedly pointing to the state's unfunded liability with dire warnings that employees' pensions could be in jeopardy. His hypocrisy: As one of the three trustees who oversee the pension fund's investments, he has yet to deliver a proposal to improve it.

Outside advisers warned the State Board of Administration — the governor, attorney general and chief financial officer — for a second time in May that its anticipated rate of return of 7.75 percent is too optimistic given current market conditions, something even the most casual market watcher would expect. That same report from Hewitt EnnisKnupp showed lowering the anticipated rate of return just one-half point to 7.25 percent, for example, and lowering the anticipated rate of salary increases from 4 percent to 3 percent (which is also more realistic in this economy) would require increasing the pension cost for employers by 2 percent of payroll. The change would increase from 50 percent to 55 percent the state's chance of meeting or exceeding its rate of return. The report received new attention last month after it was delivered to incoming legislative leaders.

Scott's one token effort came last year when his dead-on-arrival 2011-12 budget proposal included $120 million as a one-time infusion. But by the time he and the 2011 Legislature tapped a new revenue stream for the pension fund — requiring all current workers to contribute 3 percent of their salary toward the pension (a mandate that is tied up in court) — he seemed to have forgotten his campaign promise. A true fiscal conservative would have demanded that at least some of the new money supplement employer contributions for a net increase in pension contributions. Instead, Scott and the Legislature simply shifted the cost, grabbed the short-term savings and used the money to help finance tax breaks and other general government.

Scott also has done little to improve the rest of the pension fund's operation. He has backed the fund's expanding foray into risky private investments and supported extending a state law that cloaks details about many million-dollar deals. Now the question is whether he will continue to support a too-optimistic rate of return so he can enjoy short-term savings during his administration, at long-term cost. Scott promised a stronger pension fund. Florida is still waiting.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18