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Proposed Changes To Fla. Retirement System Becoming More Of A Reality

Proposed changes to the state’s retirement system are becoming more of a reality. Florida lawmakers have now drafted a bill (HB 7011) that would force new hires into a 401K-type plan, doing away with the state’s pension plan. But, the measure is under heavy criticism and facing much resistance from state employee unions and Democrats.

The plan is to automatically put new people hired after January 1st, 2014, into a 401K type plan known as the investment plan, and eliminate the pension plan option, which most state employees pick.

On Thursday, the proposal picked up the committee sponsorship of the House Government Operations Subcommittee.

Republican Representative Jason Brodeur, the Committee's chair, says he feels the plan so far is very fair.

“It doesn’t hurt anybody who’s currently in the system, doesn’t break any promises to those who haven’t been hired yet, and it doesn’t ask for any taxpayer increases either. So, I want to make sure everybody understands that,” said Brodeur.

But, despite Brodeur’s assurances, he did admit he did not have any concrete numbers to go on regarding the bill’s financial impact, since lawmakers are still awaiting the results of a study commissioned last month.

That made Democratic Representative Irv Slosberg question why the Legislature was still trying to go forward with such a bill.

“If this is a new structure….like if I’m building a new building or a new structure, don’t you think it’s wise to have your numbers forecasted before you build the new structure,” asked Slosberg

“This is like passing a budget without the numbers. And, I would tend to think that this is kind of ridiculous."

The bill also drew opposition from many public employee unions, especially those who represent special-risk employees, like law enforcement officers and firefighters.

“Let’s picture a hill with a little kid on his tricycle trying to ride up this hill, and he gets half way up the hill and a boulder comes down and he diverts from the boulder. And, he keeps going and he keeps going and he gets to the top of the hill, and the size fourteen shoes come out and kick him back down off the hill because that’s what we’re doing," remarked Rowan Taylor, president of the Metro-Dade International Association of Firefighters.

"Because it seems like every time the retirement system is trying to do better, we do something to try and tear it apart."

While all nine Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the plan, some say the bill has a long way to go before it can be passed out of the full Florida Legislature.

The bill passed out of the House Government Operations Subcommittee along party lines with three Democrats opposed.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.