Florida Supreme Court delivers key win to Gov. Scott in pension ruling

[sharenow]

Florida-Supreme-CourtIn a key victory for Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led state Legislature, the Florida Supreme Court has upheld changes made to the public employee retirement system back in 2011.

The ruling, a 4-3 decision, overturns a decision by Leon County Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fulford, who previously ruled that the pension changes were unconstitutional.

The challenge to the law, brought by the statewide teachers’ union and other public employee groups, contended that a change to the law that required employees to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to their pensions was unconstitutional because it violated the right to collective bargaining, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

State lawmakers can now breathe a sigh of relief over a potential $2 billion hole in the 2013-14 fiscal year budget an unfavorable ruling may have created.

Justices Jorge Labarga, Ricky Polston, Barbara Pariente and Charles Canady formed the majority opinion. Justices Fred Lewis, James Perry and Peggy Quince disagreed.

In a Tampa Bay Times report, Gov. Scott predicted the ruling will lure more employers to Florida.

“The court’s ruling today supports our efforts to lower the cost of living for Florida families,” Scott said in a statement. “This means even more businesses will locate and grow in our state, which creates even more opportunities for Floridians to live their version of the American dream.”

Americans for Prosperity Florida State Director Slade O’Brien released a statement following today’s ruling that said, in part:

“The Supreme Court’s decision today upholding the 2011 pension reforms, passed by the Florida legislature and championed by Governor Scott, is a huge win for taxpayers. Pension liabilities are a threat to the future prosperity of Floridians, at both the state and local levels. Today’s ruling will ensure that the financial liabilities created by the Florida Retirement System do not fall solely on the shoulders of the taxpayers, and also allows state employees to have a stake in their retirement.”

AFP-FL also released a statement Thursday saying lawmakers should stop allowing public employee unions, especially the powerful police and firefighter unions, to influence decision making when it comes to municipal pensions.

Pointing out that in many cities, annual pension contributions consume more than half of the city payroll, AFP-FL calls for the Florida Legislature to enact policies that will allow municipalities to reform their failed pension policies and move towards more sustainable retirement plans that will protect the interest of both retirees and taxpayers.

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Tom Tillison

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