Charles Parker On Florida Retirement System Overhaul

By  //  February 24, 2015

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steve Crisafulli reviewing proposals

OUT-ON-A-WIRE-580-15-4

Charles Parker writes a weekly perspective column, Out on the Wire…Without a Net, on Space Coast Daily which appears every Tuesday.

Proposal Would End Pension Benefits For Elected Officials

Current Speaker of the Florida House – and local boy-done-good – Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) is reviewing proposals for a further overhaul of the state’s $160 billion Florida Retirement System.

Steve Crisafulli

Steve Crisafulli

In 2011 it was changed to require employees to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to the plan.

The vetting of these aspects of the system are being conducted by the House State Affairs Committee at Crisafulli’s request.

Let me say here that I am a school teacher and am in the system, so I will not directly provide analysis or opinion on the proposed changes that might affect me.

I don’t want to be accused of using this platform for personal advancement.

So here are some of proposals under consideration – and my analysis:

First, the proposal would end pension benefits for elected officials in state and county government and school systems. However, these officials would still have retirement money placed in a 401(k)-type plan.

It has never made sense to me that officials who serve in limited terms at the behest of the voting public should be a part of the state pension system – especially those who have other full-time jobs and only serve in the positions part-time.

Elected officials are not in secure jobs, so why should they be provided the security of a pension? They are certainly able to set aside a portion of their salaries in their own IRA to assist in their retirement years.

And frankly, many of them need to retire.

It has never made sense to me that officials who serve in limited terms at the behest of the voting public should be a part of the state pension system – especially those who have other full-time jobs and only serve in the positions part-time.

Elected officials are not in secure jobs, so why should they be provided the security of a pension? They are certainly able to set aside a portion of their salaries in their own IRA to assist in their retirement years. And frankly, many of them need to retire.

Second, pension benefits for top-level government administrators, college/university presidents and appointed school superintendents would be halted and they would be placed in the plan noted previously.

While most of these folks hold “temporary” jobs since they are “hired” by politically-based entities who are subject to elections, they do go through interview processes and are certainly considered more long-term employees.

Those in this category should have the option of a choice between the pension system and a 401(k)-type investment that they can roll to their next job if desired. This should be contingent, however, on actuaries proving that they are a serious drain on the system.

And third, the plan calls for new public workers being given that choice to opt-in to the traditional pension or be placed in an investment plan.

The Florida Retirement System (FRS) Pension Plan is one of the largest public retirement plans in the United States.

The Florida Retirement System (FRS) Pension Plan is one of the largest public retirement plans in the United States.

As a conservative, I am all about people having a say in using their own money and at first glance this seems to be a home-run in that regard. However, and again, it should be proven through a thorough look at the numbers that this will not jeopardize those already in the system.

If the predictions of stability can be balanced with changing numbers of people in the pension plan, more personal choice on how we spend and invest our own money is a positive thing for the individual and the state.

All-in-all, this is a step in the right direction to keep Florida from falling into the pension mess that other states have and to give more control to individuals about their own retirement income. We can only hope that – after some review – the legislature and our favorite son will make adjustments that make sense.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charles Parker writes a weekly perspective/opinion column, Out on the Wire…Without a Net, on Space Coast Daily which appears every Tuesday. 

He is a longtime resident of Brevard County and has been writing for various publications for the last 40 years – both print and digital. Parker covers space, politics, religion, and other news and special events for Space Coast Daily.

Charles Parker

Charles Parker

Currently, Parker is an aerospace engineering teacher at Merritt Island High School. He is also the director of both the da Vinci Academy of Aerospace Technology and the Academy of Hospitality, Entrepreneurship, and Tourism at MIHS. He is a professor of Humanities and World Religions at Eastern Florida State College and Valencia College.

Parker has worked extensively in the tourism and aerospace industries in Brevard. He has also been a United Methodist pastor and director of a non-profit to help young adults aging out of foster care. He was formerly a board member at Brevard Achievement Center and the Childcare Association of Brevard. He was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush to the Children’s Services Council from 1999-2003.

Parker earned a BA in Organizational Management from Warner University and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. He is married, has four children and one grandchild.

You can reach him at cpbrevard@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @cpbrevard_scd

AUTHOR NOTE: These views are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Brevard Public Schools, Eastern Florida State College or Valencia College.


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