Local Pension Overhaul Ready For Full Senate Vote

Mar 27, 2015

Lawmakers are working on legislation to bolster underfunded local pension plans for police and firefighters. Senate staffers say about 350 local government plans around Florida would be impacted.
Credit americanmag/flickr

An effort to overhaul police and firefighter pensions is ready for consideration by the full Senate.

The bill, SB 172, changes the way state insurance premium tax revenues are used to fund local pension plans. It essentially enables local governments to use the money as they wish.

The bill is sponsored by lawmakers from both parties, including Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island).

“Local pensions are a ticking time bomb," Bradley told the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee Thursday. "I’ve seen data where over 60 percent of our local police and fire pensions are underfunded.”

Labor groups support the measure.

But the Florida League of Cities wants more local control and less state interference. Business groups say they oppose the bill because municipalities may not have enough flexibility in how to spend the insurance tax revenue.

Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) had tough words for private groups that oppose efforts to shore up public pensions.

“It basically says to me that what they care about are the people at the top making the most money and they’re going to continue to do everything they can to drive down pensions and drive out pensions so that they can continue to drive down wages and make more profits,” Clemens said.

The same bill passed the Senate unanimously last year but died when it got tangled up in a House proposal to overhaul the state retirement system.

News Service of Florida contributed to this report.