State Files Appeal of Judge Jackie Fulford's Pension Fund Ruling
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RELATED: Budget process unaffected, lawmakers say.
The governor’s office wasted little time filing an appeal to Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford’s ruling Tuesday that requires all state employees to contribute 3 percent of their pay toward the pension program.
“Defendants, RICK SCOTT, JEFF ATWATER, and PAM BONDI, in their capacities as the STATE BOARD OF ADMINISTRATION; and JOHN P. MILES, Secretary of the Department of Management Services, appeal to the District Court of Appeal, 1st District of Florida, the order of this court rendered March 6, 2012,” the appeal filed Tuesday night simply stated.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, told reporters he doesn't expect the ruling by Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford on Tuesday to create a budget crisis as the session winds down.
"I think, more so, it validates the wisdom of always having $1 billion in reserve," Cannon told reporters following the ruling. “That’s the position the House has long insisted upon in our budget negotiations. It’s the type of thing that just preserves the state’s credit rating, bond rating with the agencies."
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Fulford's ruling that the state requirement that all employees -- regardless of when hired -- pay 3 percent of their pay into the Florida Retirement System is unconstitutional could mean a refund, with interest, to the more than 655,000 state and local government workers who pay into the Florida Retirement System.
However, state leaders have said they will appeal the ruling by Fulford, an appointee of former Gov. Charlie Crist, and expect to ask for a stay on the repayment.
The Florida Education Association, which filed the lawsuit with a number of public-employee unions, contends legislators violated the state Constitution, which requires contract changes to be negotiated through collective bargaining.
The union didn’t argue against the state requiring employees hired after July 1, 2011, when the law went into effect, to pay into the Florida Retirement System.
In her ruling, Fulford stated that she was interpreting the law.
“The 2011 Legislature, when faced with a budget shortfall, turned to the employees of the state of Florida and ignored the contractual rights given to them by the Legislature in 1974,” Fulford wrote.
“Considering the entire record before it, this court finds that certain provisions of Senate Bill 2100 constitute an unconstitutional impairment of plaintiffs’ contract with the state of Florida, an unconstitutional taking of private property without full compensation, and an abridgement of the rights of public employees to collectively bargain over conditions of employment.
“To find otherwise would mean that a contract with our state government has no meaning,” she added.
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