House Speaker Will Weatherford will battle state workers to get one of his top priorities passed.
Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has called Florida’s current pension plan a “ticking time bomb” in state finances because he fears it could require a costly tax payer bailout in the future. To prevent that, he says he wants to require new employees, starting on Jan. 1, 2014, to enroll in 401(k)-style accounts rather than rely on getting regular pension payments.
On Thursday, a week after the Florida Supreme Court ruled against state workers and upheld a 3 percent levy on state workers to shore up the pension plan, a retirement reform plan supported by Weatherford was discussed at a House Government Operations Committee workshop.
So far, the draft legislation prevents new employees from joining the pension plan and requires them instead to enroll in a plan in which they direct the investments. It also eliminates an option to apply for disability benefits for new employees, although Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, said it will be replaced by another option that has yet to be determined. Many other details still won't be known until a report on the Florida Retirement System and its $125 billion pension plan is completed in the next three to five weeks.
Participants in the new plan will have more flexibility in deciding their investments, while taxpayers won’t be left on the hook if market conditions change, Brodeur said.
“There will no longer be a blank check written by taxpayers,” he said.
But the changes, as vague as they were, were denounced by representatives for state workers.