Pension bills heading for conference

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The Senate and House sent each other differing measures related to pension benefits for government workers and refused to accept each other? bills on Thursday, setting up a conference committee on the legislation, reports the News Service of Florida.The two versions f the legislation differ vastly. The Senate passed its version (SB 2100), setting up a tiered system of retirement contributions. Employees would contribute 2 percent on their first $25,000 in compensation. Further compensation up to $50,000 would require a 4 percent employee contribution. Wages and benefits over $50,000 would require a 6 percent contribution. An amendment by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville was approved on a voice vote Thursday that changes the contribution tiers for elected officials to 3 percent for wages and benefits under $25,000, 5 percent for contributions up to $50,000 and 7 percent for compensation over $50,000. The House proposal calls for a flat 3-percent contribution for all FRS employees. It also ends the DROP early retirement program for state employees. The Senate bill passed 26-13. The House, after debating its bill, took up the Senate bill and sent it back with the House language on, with a party line vote, Republicans in favor and Democrats against. House Democrats tried to portray the measure as essentially a tax on government workers, whose take-home pay would be reduced by 3 percent ?even if they?l one day get the money back. Rep. Leonard Bembry, D-Greenville, said some state workers’ take-home pay would be below the poverty level after losing 3 percent. But bill sponsor Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, said the state has paid 100 percent of the cost of workers’ pensions since 1975. “We find ourselves in the unfortunate position of no longer being able to shoulder 100 percent of the burden,” Workman said.

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