On Friday, officials on behalf of the state appealed to the Florida Supreme Court seeking to overturn a ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge, Jackie Fulford, who struck down a requirement mandating government employees pay 3 percent of their wages toward pensions. While the Florida government says the changes are needed to reduce the burden on the state in maintaining pension systems, opponents, which includes the largest unions in the state say the government is illegally circumventing collective bargaining systems.
The question of the law is whether the state legislature has the right to change the terms of the public pension plan for the 560,000 active participants who joined under different rules. Ron Meyer, an attorney representing the affected government workers and police said, “Basically, we’re saying you can’t change the rules in the middle of the game.”
The lower court judge, Fulford, had held given the situation that an order in favor of the state “would mean that a contract with our state government has no meaning, and that the citizens of our state can place no trust in the work of our legislature.”
On Friday, Governor Rick Scott said, “The Legislature relied on and carefully followed a 30-year-old Florida Supreme Court case, which held that the Legislature can change the public pension system on a going-forward basis … We therefore expect the Supreme Court to follow its own prior decision.”
The employee contribution requirement in Florida was eliminated in 1970 by a contract by and between the government and employees on state government payroll including teachers and others.
The state had also made other changes to the pension system, which has a current asset of $125.8 billion. Changes other than mandatory employee contribution include the lengthening of vesting periods and limiting inflation increases.