Climbing Cost Of State Worker Benefits Spared From Budget Cuts

Florida-LegislatureEditor’s Note – At a time when almost everyone in the private sector in Florida is tightening their belts and making difficult decisions and the state is facing a $3.5 Billion budget shortfall this year, isn’t it time we ask our state lawmakers why their not doing the same with state worker benefits?

As the story below reports, taxpayers shelled out $1.19 billion for employee health care last year while employee contributions declined slightly during that time, to $154 million.  And thousands get FREE health care, as do all state employees with retirement benefits.  Yes, you read that right, state employees pay nothing for their retirement plan.  Nada. Zip. Zero.

At this point, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s a case of looking out for their own or just not having the courage to take on the unions, the taxpayers of Florida have every right to expect the misery to be shared equally. 

Governor Scott must get involved here and push the Legislature to stop kicking the can down the road and deal with this issue once and for all.

 

Climbing Cost Of State Worker Benefits Spared From Budget Cuts

By Josh Hafenbrack
SunSentinel.com

Even as state leaders cut back on education and hike taxes and fees on residents, there’s one area they won’t touch: state employee benefits.

Florida’s 127,000 state workers still enjoy free or inexpensive health care, rich retirement benefits and perks, such as free college tuition and ready access to financial planners.

The costs for these programs have grown in recent years. But taxpayers — not state workers — have paid the tab.

An example is health care. Most state employees pay $50 a month for individual premiums or $180 for a family plan, an amount that hasn’t changed since 2006. The state’s contribution, meanwhile, is scheduled to rise in May to $473 for an individual or $1,004 for a family – a 35 percent increase from 2006.

The deal is even better for 26,063 state workers who pay nothing toward their health care premiums, according to a Sun Sentinel analysis of employee data provided by the Department of Management Services, which handles personnel matters.

Those figures do not include the Legislature’s 1,700 employees, who also get free health care.

In all, taxpayers paid $1.19 billion for employee health care last year, a 15 percent increase from two years prior. Employee contributions declined slightly during that time, to $154 million.

Another mushrooming expense: retirement benefits.

The state’s contribution to workers in the Florida Retirement System is virtually unmatched in the private sector, at 9 to 19 percent of each worker’s salary. The bill for taxpayers has almost doubled in five years, to $1.1 billion. Employees don’t contribute anything.

Meantime, businesses across the state have been laying off workers in droves, cutting salaries, forcing furloughs and dropping health care contributions and matches to 401(k) accounts.

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