Ruling Pending from Judge Fulford on Employee Pension Contributions


A decision continues to be anticipated soon from Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford on Florida’s decision to require state employees to contribute 3 percent of their pay toward the pension program.

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said the decision shouldn’t affect budget plans because he expects the case, no matter the verdict, will be challenged.

“No matter how a single circuit court judge rules on a single issue, that presents no reason why we should change any of our existing obligations this year or take any other immediate action,” Cannon said on Friday.

“We haven’t even gotten the first ruling from the trial court judge and there are two appellate layers above that, and months and potentially years of litigation beyond that.”

The Florida Education Association, which filed the lawsuit with a number of public-employee unions, contends legislators violated the state Constitution, which required the changes to be negotiated through collective bargaining.

The state has argued that nobody lost benefits already earned or the right to collectively bargain when it required workers to contribute into the retirement system.

Legislators, seeking to patch a $3.8 billion shortfall in the budget, set contributions at 3 percent for the 700,000 state, county and municipal employees that are covered by the $121.6 billion Florida Retirement System.

The case was heard by Fulford, who has previously ruled against the state’s prison privatization plan, in October.

At the time, Fulford said she wasn’t going to overturn prior Florida Supreme Court rulings, which she said allowed legislators to modify contracts. But she disagreed with the precedent being offered by the state attorneys that the courts had allowed legislators to unilaterally change contracts.

Gov. Rick Scott had recommended legislators make the employee contribution 5 percent.

Government employees covered by the system have been 100 percent covered by the state since July 1, 1974.

The union also contends that when legislators changed the rules during the 2011 session, their retirement benefits were cut.

During the October hearing, Charlette Moore, a certified public account testifying for the teachers' union, said the new retirement package readjusts cost-of-living raises in a manner that cuts long-term benefits.

Moore said the formula used by the state calculates time before and after employees were required to pay 3 percent pension payments starting July 1, 2011. The change, she said, alters the cost-of-living from a fixed 3 percent to less than 3 percent. For some employees, that could mean thousands of dollars in the long term.

Paul Zeisler, an independent actuary hired by the state, disagreed, saying that when cost-of-living adjustments are calculated with accrued benefits, the long-term retirement payments remain equal.

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Comments (7)

andrew hall jr
12:18AM MAY 28TH 2013
what do i need to do it in black and white the Judge on it in my favor and the office took it any way
vickie beeman
8:05PM MAR 4TH 2012
l am a school bus attendant in Volusia County I have been with the district since 1998 I make 14,000 a year with the gas prices and cost of living and the low raises and increased insurance rates . I would be almost better off on welfare . At least the 3% should have been lower for some one making 14,000 compared to some one making 100,000 dollars . My raise because I was stepped out was 200.00 straight out and the raise this year is a new step and the increase is a big 9 cents pay raise per hour .75 increace while I am paying 3% plus more in insurance. THANK YOU TO THOSE THAT VOTED ON THE RETIREMENT ISSUES I HOPE YOU HAVE FOOD ON YOUR TABLE YOU DONT CARE IF THERE IS ON MINE SINCELY VICKIE BEEMAN
12:28AM FEB 28TH 2012
It doesn't address the issue that with police, we started at a lower salary 7k to 12k a year lower because we didn't have to pay into our pension. I could have went to a department starting out at a higher salary and pay 3% to 5%. I took the lower salary to be 100 covered. Now they take it from me anyway and my salary doesn't increase. Double whammy.
12:08PM FEB 27TH 2012
I moved to FL and became a USF employee in March of 2011. This 3% equals one months rent for me, something I did not plan on when I took the position. I'm already 55+ and I won't work long enough to retire. What happens to all the money I put into the system?
I'm glad the legislature did not take Gov. Scott's recommendation of 5%.
9:35AM FEB 26TH 2012
Rick Scott is the son of satan, no one will dispute that. My question is if she rules against it do these people get the money already taken back or do they have to wait for all the appeals? If they have to wait they need to get interest on their money!
12:50PM MAR 1ST 2012
Ya right. The state give money back. NEVER. When have you known thieves to give back their ill gotten gains. The fact is that they are boo hooing about the possibility that this could be catastrophic to the the state budget. This clearly indicates that they are using these funds collected from us for other things other then retirement. I would also like to point out that 99% of us make less then 30k and this is a huge travesty to us. We take these jobs at the lower pay because the benefits where so great. Now we have CRAP pay and even CRAPPIER benefits that are becoming non existent and the big boys figure out ways to move more costs onto the little people furthering the divide between the wealthy and the poor and the middle class is quickly disappearing.
10:48AM FEB 27TH 2012
Judge Fulford previously ruled against a request to create an escrow account for these funds. I believe this rules out the possibility of the state having to give it back.

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