House public pension reform will focus on 2013 Senate proposal

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The future of public employee pensions will be on the House schedule, said Speaker Will Weatherford, on  Wednesday, as discussion focuses on a Senate bill would have probably passed last session. 

However, the Senate proposal was not enough to reach Weatherford’s goal of closing the traditional, “defined benefit” pension plan available to new workers. The Senate bill was killed off by moderate Republicans in 2013.

“I believe we can get a pension bill done this year that could save tens of billions of dollars for Floridians,” Weatherford told.

The 2013 Senate bill sought to change the default for Florida Retirement System members who have not chosen a plan by a specific time to a 401(k)-style plan, lengthens the time for vesting employees in the defined benefit plan and provides a discount on contributions to employees enrolled in the investment option.

A few Republican Senators voting against Weatherford’s action last year said admitted they would have preferred the original Senate plan.

Although the Speaker refused to accept the Senate bill last session, Weatherford admitted “political reality” forced him to scale back on his goals, and maintains that pension changes would still save taxpayers.

“To me, that’s significant improvement,” Weatherford said. “That’s game-changing for our pension system, and it puts the state of Florida in a position where it can be solvent long-term.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.