Florida Chamber: ‘Public employee pension reform will keep promise and protect taxpayers’

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To ensure public employee pensions are secure and to make Florida more competitive, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is supporting legislation protecting public employee retirements that do not further burden taxpayers or cause fiscal instability to the state government.

“Pension reform is one of the most important issues the Legislature is facing in the last two weeks of session,” said Mark Wilson, the President and CEO of the Florida Chamber in an editorial. “Florida taxpayers will spend at least $500 million this year to cover the unfunded pension of government workers. These dollars could have been used for other needs including supporting teachers, transportation, business development, job creation, lowering taxes and other areas.”

The Florida House has passed HB 7011, a Florida Chamber-backed bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur which it argues protects the long-term health of the Florida Retirement System (FRS,) and helps ensure retirement security for public employees. The Chamber believes the bill also expands investment options and protects the longevity of the system by allowing measures that add a cost savings to the program.

“To keep our promises to government employees, protect taxpayers and ensure state and local governments remain fiscally sound, the Florida Legislature is correct in advocating public pension reform,” Wilson said in a recently published editorial. “Make no mistake about it, unless you want taxpayers to continue bailing them out, government employee pensions are in serious jeopardy unless reforms are put in place.”

Charley Caulkins, managing partner with Fisher & Phillips and a member of the Florida Chamber Board of Directors, recently explained in a radio interview with conservative talk show radio host Preston Scott of WFLA-FM in Tallahassee, that pension reform is essential for having an effective retirement plan for public employees, security to taxpayers and overall business climate and job creation. Caulkins interview with Scott is part of a Series on Free Enterprise.

HB 7011 does not impact current participants in the FRS, but it will offer new employees security for retirement while reducing future burdens on taxpayers.

According to a Florida Chamber Foundation study show the FRS is only about 87 percent funded and is not in a position to take on new expenses.

The Senate is also looking at a bill reforming public pensions. SB 1392 by Sen. Wilton Simpson will help protect government employees’ retirements.

Securing public employees’ retirements is one of the leading items on the Florida Chamber’s 2013 Business Agenda, a blueprint of legislative priorities that makes Florida more competitive and puts long-term economic policy decisions ahead of short-term political fixes. 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.