Tampa, Florida--The Florida Senate is taking testimony on a measure to require the 650-thousand people in the Florida Retirement System to contribute 3 percent of their income to the plan. It is also considering ending the DROP program which gives public employees a huge going away check.
Money is something the state doesn't have as it is facing a $3.75 billion deficit.
Pasco State Senator Mike Fasano says the state has a crisis when it comes to the budget.
Fasano says this is why the State has to reevaluate the Florida Retirement System which pays monthly pension benefits and the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, called DROP. DROP gives the employee a one-time check for five years of their retirement money when they leave the public sector.
According to Fasano, the legislature is going to stop the way the system is being ran. He says many of his colleagues recognize if they don't do something the problem will increase.
Part of the outrage is that the fund, which is paying $12 billion a year, is that state employees don't pay a penny.
In addition to the public employees not paying into the pension system, critics say another major problem is the formula used to compute benefits. In the case of elected officials and high risk professions like law enforcement, the formula is almost twice as much as the average state worker. Critics say that leads to large lifetime pensions and a huge going away check when those elected officials retire.
Looking at Sheriffs in our area you can see how the program can cost taxpayers:
- Polk Sheriff Grady Judd got a one-time DROP payment of $361,256. When he retires he gets a monthly $6,649 in retirement payments.
- Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats received a $382,256 payment and $9,939 a month. Both Judd and Coats ran for office after retiring and also receive a paycheck in addition to their retirement money.
- Pasco Sheriff Bob White, who just retired, will receive $10,752 a month.
- Manatee Sheriff William "Brad" Steube will get a one-time payment of $502,907 and a monthly benefit of $7,118 when he retires.
- Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight gets a one-time payment of $483,600 and monthly benefit $9,672 at retirement.
- Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee will get a onetime payment of $955,694 almost a million dollars and a monthly benefit of $14,485 when he retires in 2015.
Public employee unions say nothing should change. Rich Templin of the Florida AFL-CIO says any radical changes made to the pensions will impact hundreds of families and communities throughout the state.
But Fasano says the public won't tolerate the system remaining the same. He says people are getting the wrong message. He says elected officials are leaving office and some, like Gee, are getting almost a million dollars and a pension in double digit figures. So while elected officials are banking on their way out, the budget suffers because taxpayers have to fund it.
For someone in the private sector who wanted a $1-million check at retirement and then a $14,000 a month retirement payment, they would have to start their investment with $30,000 and then for the next 30 years add an average of $6,500 a month to their 401-K.