House unveils local pension plan

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A pension measure unveiled Friday by the House Government Operations Subcommittee would give local governments a sought-after change in the funding of retirement plans for firefighters and police officers, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

Under the new proposal (GVOPS 11-17), local governments would be able to use additional proceeds from insurance premium taxes to pay for unfunded liabilities within their pension plans.

Currently, any new revenues from the taxes are required to be funneled into new benefits.

The measure, which passed on a 10-5 party-line vote, differs from a less sweeping Senate plan that would allow local governments with substantial unfunded liabilities to use some of the tax proceeds to fill the gap.

Local officials told lawmakers Friday they need the change to try to replenish pension plans hammered by the economic downturn.

?he premium tax money has grown, but we can? use it to pay for the new people,?said Bruce Haddock, city manager of Oldsmar.

But Dean Parkerson, a district vice president with Florida Professional Firefighters, told lawmakers that the local governments?bind was largely based on the decisions they made with regard to pension plans and benefits in collective bargaining.

?hey got there themselves . . . and now, they?e looking for a bailout,?Parkerson said.

The changes in local plans would be different from the pension changes lawmakers are seeking to make for state employees. Those measures, which cleared the House and Senate on Thursday, would require workers to contribute a portion of their income toward funding their own retirement accounts.

The bill unveiled Friday would also remove unused sick or annual leave time and any overtime over 300 hours after July 1 from the definition of compensation for retirement benefits. It wouldn? affect benefits police officers or firefighters have already earned.

Rocco Salvatori, with Suncoast Professional Firefighters, said that ignores the fact that firefighters generally get three hours of overtime a week simply because of their schedules.
?t may just be showing up to work,?Salvatori said.

Others differed with provisions giving local governments more control over the administrative budgets of the pension plans. Rep. Dwayne Taylor, a Daytona Beach Democrat who has served on the board of local pensions, said that could prove unfair to board members who are held responsible for the financial health of the plans.

?ou cannot allow a city or municipality to government one aspect of it without taking on the liabilities of it,?Taylor said.

The Senate version of the plan (SB 1128) is set to go before the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday.

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.