The Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments Friday regarding a lawsuit filed by government workers challenging a 2011 law that requires public employees to contribute to their retirement plans.
“It is a common sense public pension reform,” said Lane Wright, press secretary for Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “Prior to this reform, Florida was one of only three states in the whole country that did not require public employees to contribute to their pensions.”
Alachua County Education Association President Karen McCann said the law violates Florida’s constitution.
“They changed the conditions of employement,” she said. “We had a contract. The Florida constitution says in Article I, Section 10 that you cannot pass a law that breaks an existing contract, and that’s what the lawsuit is really about.”
McCann said prior to the 2011 law it was a condition of employment that state employees, such as teachers and firefighters, receive a pension paid for by the employer. She said the law violates the rights of anyone who was employed by the state prior to 2011 and had a pension with the Florida Retirement System.
The state ”made up the budget shortfall on the backs of a lot of middle class workers by breaking a promise that the state had to them,” she said.
Wright said the state expects to win the case based on a precedent set by the state Supreme Court more than three decades ago.
“The truth is more than 30 years ago there was a decision made by the Florida Supreme Court that said the legislature is allowed to make changes to the Florida Retirement System on a going-forward-basis,” he said. “And when the legislature crafted this law they were careful to make sure they followed that precedent that was set more than 30 years ago. ”
It is unknown when the state Supreme Court will release its decision.
Emily Miller edited this story for online.