Wilton Simpson: Pension reform dead, but not a victory for opponents

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Sen. Wilton Simpson, sponsor of the measure to overhaul the state pension system, told WFSU on Thursday that the effort is dead, although neither side will declare victory (or defeat) until the official end of the 2014 legislative session.

With the end of the session approaching on Friday, the procedural move by Sen. Jack Latvala may have finished off the bill for good.

“Well, the maneuvers that took place on pension reform at this point look pretty promising, said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford. “Unfortunately, we don’t get real excited until the handkerchief falls on the final day, because they always maneuver to get what they want. So, we’re not giving up.”

This latest effort was tacked onto a non-controversial House bill reforming troubled local government pension systems, much to the objections of both Democrats and public employee unions such as the FEA.

“The local pension issue is something that everybody’s been working on for years in order to try and improve the current pension system,” Ford told WFSU reporter Sascha Cordner. “And, unfortunately, that bill got tied up with the state pension issue which doesn’t need any changes, doesn’t’ need any reform, it’s working fine, it’s actuarially sound, and they just want to tinker with it because they want to. And, there’s no need. We have one of the best funded retirement systems in the country.”

“We always hear it said that it’s in better shape than in some other states, and it’s true. It’s funded roughly at 85-percent,” said Bob Sanchez, policy director of the James Madison Institute, which advocates pension reform. “Even so, the Legislature has to kick in more money every year to see that it’s up to snuff and it’s actuarially sound, that it will be able to pay its obligations.”

“Well, as Yogi Berra once said, it’s not over until it’s over,” Sanchez added. “However, it does appear that not much will be achieved this year in pension reform, and that’s too bad really.”

Although the bill may have been on Thursday’s Senate schedule, Simpson confirmed that the effort is not going to be taken up this year.

“We have taken that out of consideration for this year,” Simpson said. “It’s not officially out of consideration. But we’re not going to bring it back up.”

However, he added that it is not much of a victory for opponents, since he is sure the Legislature will make much larger changes in the future, when the pension system will not be as sound.


Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.