From the Ledger
by Glen Marston
The Florida Education Association teachers’ union sued Gov. Rick Scott on Monday to block a new retirement-contribution law. It requires that workers in the state retirement system pay in 3 percent of their salaries to the system, even though they were told they would never have to do so.
Despite the deceit, in this tough time of high unemployment, stagnant salaries and diminishing benefits, such a lawsuit does not generate sympathy.
Private-sector employees who already contribute to their pensions say be happy to have a pension.
Private employees who have 401(k) plans say it must be nice to have a pension.
Workers without either say they’d be happy with any kind of retirement.
The rest say they’d just like to find a job and get back to work.
Given such widespread employment difficulty, why would a court side with the workers in the state retirement system?
Because the Florida Constitution prohibits the Legislature from making any law to change the state retirement system.
Regardless of societal circumstances, the constitution’s provisions cannot be changed by law. All laws must conform to the requirements and restrictions of the constitution.
Gov. Rick Scott exuded confidence Monday when speaking of his prospect as defendant. Remember, he is a lawyer.
The fact that he avoided the constitution when speaking about the case may indicate that the worker lawsuit is well-grounded.
“Asking state employees to pay a small percentage into their pensions is common sense,” Scott said in a statement. “Floridians who don’t work in government are required to pay into their own retirement. This is about fairness for those who don’t have government jobs. Plus, we are ensuring a pension will be there for state employees when they retire.”
Not that it will affect the court case, but the multimillionaire governor was disingenuous about “ensuring a pension will be there.”
Florida’s retirement system is rated as one of the best-funded among the states.
The workers’ 3 percent contributions will not add anything to the fund — employers will be contributing 3 percent less. The fund will not change.
Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who are all Republicans and make up the Florida Board of Administration, made no change to the retirement system when they met June 16 to review its status.
They said there is no need to change the $131.5 billion system, which grew $3.6 billion in the first quarter of the year.
The system covers 655,000 workers and 219,000 retirees.
As to whether the retirement-contribution law is fair, consider that state workers around Florida were told at their time of hiring that the retirement system required no contribution, as a way of offsetting low salaries.
The courts will determine whether the law is constitutional. On its face, though, it is crummy.
[ Glenn Marston is editorial page editor. E-mail: email@example.com. Phone: 863-802-7600. ]