Florida’s leading government watchdog group announces a renewed effort for municipal pension reform with Taxpayers for Sustainable Pensions a collaboration with business advocates and policy groups.
Non-profit Florida TaxWatch joined six other advocacy groups in Tallahassee to announce a combined effort to reform taxpayer-funded government pensions. The coalition’s goal is ensuring the state’s retirement program has sufficient funding for long-term sustainability.
Among options available to Taxpayers for Sustainable Pensions, include local pension reform, legislative, constitutional and local-level solutions.
“Too many Florida cities are facing a bill they cannot pay without reducing public services or increasing taxes,” said Florida TaxWatch Chief Research Officer Robert Weissert in a statement. “As government pensions become more generous, even surpassing pensions given to military retirees, they have plunged Florida’s municipalities into nearly $11 billion in debt that future taxpayers will be forced to pay.”
Weissert warns of “underfunded, unfair and unsustainable pension mandates” that could leave Florida cities vulnerable to debt and possibly bankruptcy.
The failure to pass a municipal pension reform bill in the 2014 Legislative Session inspired the group to form a coalition to focus attention on the massive local liabilities. With more than $10 billion in debt due to excessive benefits levels, Weissert points out that the one-third of all Florida’s municipal pension plans that are less than 70 percent funded.
In addition to Florida TaxWatch, coalition members include:
- Americans For Prosperity – Florida, a conservative/libertarian issue advocacy group, which now boasts 2,000,000 activists nationwide and more than 100,000 activists in Florida
- Associated Industries of Florida, one of the most-authoritative business advocates in the state
- The Florida Chamber Foundation, the solutions, development and research arm of the Florida Chamber of Commerce
- The Florida League of Cities, the voice for Florida’s municipal governments
- The National Federation of Independent Business, America’s leading small-business advocacy association representing 350,000 small and independent business owners nationwide
- R Street Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan, public policy think tank that emphasizes free markets and limited government
“Creating fiscally stable state and local governments through modernized and sustainable retirement systems helps avoid a bankrupt future too many state and local governments currently face,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce Director of Infrastructure and Governance Policy Leticia Adams. “Securing public pensions and protecting taxpayers will help avoid the damage that unfunded pension programs can have – broken promises, lost jobs, higher taxes and fees and a diminished economy.”
Associated Industries of Florida CEO Tom Feeney added that long-term financial security and long-term economic growth of pension obligations for local public workers is essential.
“Government pension liabilities are one of the most-significant issues facing our local governments and taxpayers,” said Americans For Prosperity Florida Deputy State Director Abigail MacIver, “yet self-interested parties continue to try and sweep the issue under the rug.”
“Real solutions that can be implemented that will protect taxpayers as well as dedicated government workers,” she added. “The risk we have already accumulated will impact Florida’s families and businesses for generations and our local governments simply cannot afford to ignore the problem anymore.”