Florida groups form pension reform coalition
Florida's influential business advocates and policy groups have formed Taxpayers for Sustainable Pensions, a coalition dedicated to achieving municipal pension reform. The groups convened in Tallahassee to announce their commitment to reforming taxpayer-funded government pensions to ensure funding and long-term sustainability. The coalition will pursue options for local pension reform, including legislative, constitutional and local-level solutions.
After lawmakers were unable to pass a municipal pension reform bill during the 2014 Legislative Session, the groups were inspired to create the coalition to focus attention on the massive local liabilities. Florida's municipal pension plans have amassed more than $10 billion in debt due to excessive benefit levels, and one-third of all municipal pension plans are less than 70 percent funded.
To improve the health of local pension plans, the coalition will work with state and local officials, as well as key stakeholders to propose and implement solutions to ensure Florida taxpayers can afford benefits promised to local government workers.
Members of the coalition include:
- Americans For Prosperity - Florida
- Associated Industries of Florida
- The Florida Chamber Foundation
- The Florida League of Cities
- Florida TaxWatch
- The National Federation of Independent Business
- R Street Institute
Robert Weissert, Chief Research Officer for Florida TaxWatch: "Too many Florida cities are facing a bill they cannot pay without reducing public services or increasing taxes. Our hardworking taxpayers and local government workers deserve a sustainable pension system that cities and their residents can afford. As government pensions become more generous, even surpassing pensions given to military retirees, they have plunged Florida's municipalities into nearly $11 billion in debt that future taxpayers will be forced to pay. Taxpayers for Sustainable Pensions is determined to find a solution to protect Florida's taxpayers from underfunded, unfair and unsustainable pension mandates that leave Florida cities vulnerable to debt and even bankruptcy."
Leticia Adams, Director of Infrastructure and Governance Policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce: "Creating fiscally stable state and local governments through modernized and sustainable retirement systems helps avoid a bankrupt future too many state and local governments currently face," said Leticia Adams, Director of Infrastructure and Governance Policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "Securing public pensions and protecting taxpayers will help avoid the damage that unfunded pension programs can have - broken promises, lost jobs, higher taxes and fees and a diminished economy."
Tom Feeney, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Florida: "Florida's long-term financial security and long-term economic growth of controlling pension obligations for local public workers is essential," said AIF President & CEO Tom Feeney. "We are proud to be a part of the Taxpayers for Sustainable Pensions Coalition and look forward to working toward the common goal of improving the health of local pension plans."
Scott Dudley, Legislative Director for the Florida League of Cities, Inc.:The Florida League of Cities and its 410 member cities are proud to stand with such a broad and diverse coalition of interests, all seeking to fix Florida's municipal police and firefighter pension system. Florida's cities respect and honor our first responders and want to ensure that the pensions they have been promised are there for them when they are ready to retire. The legislature has imposed mandates on cities that have made municipal police and firefighter pensions unsustainable in the long run. Unless and until the legislature repeals the existing mandates that have cost Florida's taxpayers over $550 million since 1999, cities will continue to struggle to make good on their promise to these first responders.
Christian R. Camara, Florida Director for the R. Street Institute: "Many state and local governments around the country are grappling with the quickly rising costs of their pensions and retiree benefits. Some have had to sacrifice funding for key government services such as education, roads, and public safety just to remain solvent. Without some commonsense reforms, many of Florida's local governments will be forced to make similar concessions in the near future, which will hurt residents and put Florida's economy at risk."
Bill Herrle, Florida Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business: "An unhealthy local pension system is potentially harmful to the long-term well-being of our state, and finding a solution has been challenging because there are so many stakeholders. Reforming the municipal pension system is critical to ensuring that Florida's economy continues to grow and flourish, and protecting the taxpayers is key. We're looking forward to bringing the voices of our members - small business owners and taxpayers - to the table to find a responsible and sustainable solution to this challenge."
Abigil MacIver, Deputy State Director for Americans For Prosperity - Florida: "Government pension liabilities are one of the most significant issues facing our local governments and taxpayers, yet self-interested parties continue to try and sweep the issue under the rug. It's important that taxpayers learn the truth about the risk unfunded pension plans pose and that there are real solutions that can be implemented that will protect taxpayers as well as dedicated government workers. The risk we have already accumulated will impact Florida's families and businesses for generations and our local governments simply cannot afford to ignore the problem anymore."
Florida TaxWatch is a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan research institute that over its 34-year history has become widely recognized as the watchdog of citizens' hard-earned tax dollars. Its mission is to provide the citizens of Florida and public officials with high quality, independent research and education on government revenues, expenditures, taxation, public policies and programs and to increase the productivity and accountability of Florida state and local government. Its support comes from homeowners and retirees, small and large businesses, philanthropic foundations, and professional associations. On the web at www.FloridaTaxWatch.org.