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Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

FL Public Workers File Suit Over Pension Changes

TALLAHASSEE, FL - The Florida Education Association (FEA) has filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court in Tallahassee seeking to stop the effective 3 percent pay cut for teachers, school employees and other state workers imposed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott. The suit asserts that the legislation is unconstitutional because of the requirement that 3 percent of the salaries of active members of the Florida Retirement System be used as mandatory contributions toward their retirement benefits.

FEA President Andy Ford says members of the Florida AFL-CIO have joined the class action suit.

"Just because the CEOs of the country are able to change the retirement benefits of their workers, in order for them to receive huge salary increases, doesn't make it right for the government to do the same thing to its public employees."

Ford contends that Florida entered into a binding contract with state workers in 1974 that included setting pension benefits. He says the State may change the contribution rules for new employees, but the agreement with present state workers is binding under the state Constitution.

The lawsuit names Governor Rick Scott, his Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and the Department of Management Services. They have claimed the retirement contributions will reduce the state's budget deficit, but Ford says the administration is out of touch with the average middle-class Floridian.

"It's real easy when you are independently wealthy to say a 3 percent cut is not going to hurt anybody. But a 3 percent cut to school employees, teachers, police officers, firefighters, is a substantial amount of their disposable income."

Plaintiffs are asking the Circuit Court to create a special fund to hold the contested pension contributions. If their lawsuit is successful, workers would then have the 3 percent amounts returned to them in a lump sum.

The Florida retirement system covers 655,000 active state workers and 220,000 retirees.

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