Florida Supreme Court weighs pension case affecting 570,000 public employees

2:38 PM, Sep 7, 2012   |    comments
Florida Education Association Attorney Ron Meyer argues before the Florida Supreme Court. Meyer says the pension system represents a contract with employees. "We strongly believe that you can't impair the contract of people."
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Tallahassee, Florida - Should Florida's 570,000 public employees be forced to pay three percent of their salaries toward their pensions?

That was the question before the Florida Supreme Court Friday as justices heard arguments for and against a pension reform law approved by Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature last year.

The Florida Education Association sued, arguing the law was unconstitutional. A circuit county judge agreed with the teachers' union earlier this year and directed the state to pay back all pension contributions already collected.

But, the state appealed and the case went directly to the Supreme Court.

FEA attorney Ron Meyer told justices the Legislature set up a pension system in 1974 that did not require employees to make contributions.

Meyer called that a contract and said it can't be changed in the middle of the game.

"When you take that deal and change it to make employees pay for what was heretofore promised to them as a contract you're impairing the contract."

Gov. Scott's attorney Jesse Panuccio argued state lawmakers were within the law when they changed the pension system.

"We think pretty strongly the law is on our side and this change will be upheld. It's a common sense pension reform."

The Legislature used the pension contribution to help balance last year's budget. If the Supreme Court rules against the law, then the state will have to come up with $2 billion.

Dave Heller

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