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Senate committee votes out scaled back pension bill

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee voted 12-1 Thursday for a  scaled back pension reform bill that will require most state employees to have the amount of compensation that is shifted from salary to pension contributions capped at 2 percent and require contributions only when the retirement fund faces a deficit.

The compromise also allows new employees making less than $75,000 to continue to join the state pension fund, which was declared healthy on Wednesday by the State Board of Administration. The measure is a sharp pivot away from the approach sought by Gov. Rick Scott and his Tea Party supporters who recommended state employees shift 5 percent of their salaries to their pension funds as a way to save the state $1.4 billion a year.

"Unlike the governor, this bill does not balance the budget on the backs of state workers,'' said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

"This commitee was very sensitive not to demonize state workers,'' said Sen. Jeremy Ring, the Margate Democrat and chairman of the committee. He said the committee conducted hours of hearings and received and answered more than 1000 phone calls. He said he hopes the committee's recommendation will be accepted by the full Senate as the reasonable compromise that addresses the needs and concerns.