Union Challenge to Florida Pension Reform Stirs Backlash
Around the State
Conservatives and taxpayer groups are lashing back at a teachers' union lawsuit challenging Florida's new pension law.
"They should count their blessings, and realize that the world has changed, even if the retirement system has not," Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro said of public employees who will be required to make a 3 percent contribution toward their pensions.
Calling the state's current noncontributory system "so out of whack, so unlike the way the governed live," Calabro derided the legal challenge by the Florida Education Association and other public-employee unions.
"We don't see how their concern has any substance. Forty-nine other states and the federal government have [employee contribution rules]. This is not mandating that people work for state government. Government employment is not a guaranteed right, it's a privilege of public service, and this is a contribution to the common good," he said.
In filing suit, FEA President Andy Ford said the contribution requirement is "essentially an income tax levied only on workers belonging to the Florida Retirement System.
"It’s unfair -- and it breaks promises made to these employees when they chose to work to improve our state,” Ford said.
Though two conservative Florida attorneys contacted by Sunshine State News were not yet willing to state an opinion on the merits of the case, Andrew Nappi of the Florida 10th Amendment Center, questioned Ford's contractual contention.
"The first question to be answered is, was there what would be considered a 'contract' existing between the parties," Nappi said. "Since it was the state that changed the pension law to noncontributory status back in the early '70s, why can't they legislate it back to a contributory system?"
"My non-attorney guess is this suit fails when all is said and done," Nappi predicted.
Noting that the 2011 Legislature scaled back Gov. Rick Scott's initial call for a 5 percent pension contribution, Calabro said, "This is not draconian. It's a very modest measure."
Bob McClure, president of the conservative James Madison Institute, said that school employees, who constitute roughly half of the 655,000 active employees in the Florida Retirement System, should take a hard look at their union brass.
“One way to ensure that teachers have greater take-home pay after these retirement changes go into effect is for the Florida Education Association to lower its dues -- and the salaries it pays union officials,” McClure said.
“Currently, more than half of FEA’s employees make in excess of $100,000 -- which is at least twice as much as some of our state’s best teachers.”
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341