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Chan Lowe: Scott targets state pensions


Much as it pains me to agree with Gov. Rick Scott on anything, I have to admit that his idea to require workers on the state pension system to contribute five per cent of their salaries toward their retirement packages makes sense, particularly in this time of financial tribulation.

Frankly, it came as a surprise that, up until now, they have had to make absolutely no personal contribution. Those who set up the system, in their wisdom, left that burden to the taxpayers.

To those of us who work in the private sector, particularly in the age of the 401(K), the idea of the personal contribution is as much of a given as the medical insurance co-pay. It’s pointless to complain, because that’s the way it is and there’s nothing we can do about it.

There is nothing select about state employees that should elevate them above those whom they serve. Yes, the unions scream that it amounts to a pay cut, but the rest of us have always deducted that payment from our salaries, so it’s only an affront if you aren’t used to it. In addition, state employees ought to have to identify with the rest of us, and realize that state money isn’t “free” money. It’s our money (theirs too), and needs to be husbanded.

Somehow, I don’t think this new levy is going to cause state employees to quit their jobs in outrage. There’s never been a problem filling a state job when it opens up, five per cent or no five per cent.

And we won’t even go into that cumulative sick leave policy.

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Exactly right, Chan. While I am still skeptical about our governor, this is something that should have been implemented long ago.

This is status quo for many cities, already, as I understand it.

In the private sector, if retirement plans even DO exist, the business must pay the liability monthly, and cannot take a deduction for unfunded plans.

Therefore, it can't implement what it can't afford. Should be the same for all government employees.

Furthermore, most private sector businesses require at least a portion to be paid by employee towards retirement.

Fiscally responsible. I'm impressed.

Btw, isn't anyone going to yell at you for agreeing with the governor?

I'm disappointed.


I read something on a different website that even the fund has almost zero chance of failing. The fund has 125 billion dollars and only pays out 5 billion per year. Even at a measly 5% rate of return, the fund can pay out for a really long time without a single contribution by anyone. Florida has one of the lowest numbers of state workers per capita and despite what most people think, most of us aren't bringing down the big bucks. Nearly half the people in the fund are teachers and here in Florida, teachers are paid well below the national average. A Florida teacher would make $6k more by simply moving to Georgia. Some state employees are overpaid, but most of us make well below what we would make in the private sector. So if they want me to decide whether or not and how much I contribute to retirement, I would like to have that money in my paycheck. Otherwise, it is a defacto salary decrease for a group of people who haven't received a raise in 5 years.

One of the benefits of taking a lower-paying public sector job has always been not having to contribute to the pension. When I worked in the private sector, my gross salary was higher and I got to CHOOSE how much of my salary I wanted to contribute to my 401K. Now I have a job that though spiritually rewarding, has me living from hand to mouth, just about making ends meet on a salary that has not increased in three years, and he wants to FORCE me to give 5% of my salary? That's about $160 a month that I won't be able to apply to bills.

You want me to contribute, fine. Go to a 401K where I can choose the contribution amount that will still allow me to pay my bills. I'm lucky - I have investments from 12 years of 401K already earning money for my future retirement. Don't tell me I HAVE to give what I can't afford to because the powers that be were not forward thinking. It's unfair.

Private sector employees get paid more than the government employees. Give us that raise, that is long overdue, and we won't complain about the change.

This is the best fiscal decision by any FL governor in the past 20 years...and I'm glad it was done by a Republican.

This is what we get for having a business guy...not a career politician in charge.

I look forward to more fiscally common sense decisions.

Chan gets a point for publicly agreeing this is beneficial. Many liberals would never publicly agree.

It's a valiant sentiment to make us pay towards our retirement, but as a teacher who makes barely anything staring down the barrel of yet one more thing that is going to, for the 4th year in a row, decrease my take home pay when I can barely afford to support my family as it is, it's rather sickening. This would amount to the loss of 1 whole month of pay. Never mind the fact that dear Gov. Scott has already made it known that the education budget is one of his top two budgets to trim. I've already started looking for masters programs to get a degree in another field. Yes it's true that the second a teaching position opens up there is someone there to fill it, but when all of the younger and brighter teachers start running away from the education field, what quality of teacher do you think is going to take our place? Never mind the fact that the last place we should be taking money from is the future of our children. I'm not asking for a pay raise, in this economy that would be foolish, but it would be nice if my yearly take home pay didn't decrease every year.

Public employees receive lower pay than private sector employees doing the same job. Public employees are told the reason for the lower pay is because they are compensated w/ benefits instead. If public employees start loosing their benefits, no one will want to work in the public sector anymore.

I am a County worker and although we have had only one 3% raise in the last 5 years, I would pay the 5%. What I don't agree with is the plan to take away retirees 3% annual cost of living increase.


Any state employee that voted for Scott or stayed home and did not vote for Sink is getting exactly what they deserve. Do not whine about it now.

What ever happened to working in a career field that you loved, when did it start getting to be all about money. Also you teachers knew what the pay was when getting into the field of teaching, its not like you got a job and then surprise your pay will only be so much. Also Katrina 12 percent would be a whole months pay not 5 percent (hope you are not a math teacher).

I correct myself it would be 8.3 percent would be the same as a months pay. Sorry

I can tell you on behalf of many of us state employees, that this is not the issue. Most will tell you they don't have a problem making a contribution in these changing times. Although the truth is for many employees, particularly police officers, even if they had been contributing all of these years, it would have been built back into their salaries, not much unlike the municipal agency retirements do. What is really abhorrent here, is that the gov also proposes cutting out the DROP (which actually saves the taxpayers money and is an important incentive for being in law enforcement in the first place) cutting the special risk down a point (which is a slap in the face to everyone that risks their life daily to be in the special risk), dropping the annual COLA (a kick in the ribs on the ground), and possibly altering the retirement age. No one ever complained about these retirement benefits for many years because when the private sector was riding high and their 401(k)'s were fat, it was "look at the poor public servants... no bonuses, no tax shelters, no perks... well at least they have good retirement". But now everyone needs someone/something to vilify so while the bankers and brokers are still making a killing after your tax funded bailout, those who are putting themselves in harms way (look at the statistics already this year) are made the scapegoat. So no, we don't have a problem with contributing "like everyone else", but the totality of what the gov proposes is shameful and insulting to the people that put themselves in the firing line for you every day. Sorry, but you can't continue comparing a law enforcement job to the private sector and two equate the FRS to 401 is apples to oranges. These were the incentives offered to undertake the long hours, physically demanding work, differential shifts, dangers, etc. Sure there are other careers somewhat similar, such as nursing perhaps, but it just a matter of conveience that this is suddenly "unfair" now and an issue. This is just another shell game by a big business man turned politician.

Gov. Christie of New Jersey said it best when he told a union guy not to get mad at him (Christie) because he (Christie) is the first one to tell it like it is; the earlier administrations made promises that couldn't be kept.

The guy should be saying, "It's the anguished cry of state employees being asked to take a 5% pay cut on top of unpaid furlough days!"

What type of sound would you make, Chan if you were told you would be receiving a 5% pay cut?!

I am cool with the 401k style set-up. But will the state match a portion of the contribution... like it is done in the private sector?

And what about my raise? I can negociate a raise in the private sector, but I cannot as a goverment employee. How about a change to allow me to do that too?

Are you serious...Beginning teachers in Broward make 39,000 - not bad. A seventh year teacher makes 40,375 - starting to get ridiculous. A twelve year teacher makes 42,881 - getting very ridiculous. A nineteen year teacher makes 49,877 a whooping 10,877 more than a beginning teacher - so ridiculous. And now Scott wants to make us pay 5% towards our pensions, as well as remove the DROP incentive - why would anyone ever want to teach in Florida - they must be ridiculous!!!!

I dont understand the crying about it being a 5% pay cut. A pay cut would be money you are NOT receiving. You are still receiving the money...just in your pension instead of your paycheck. work 9 months a year. We work 12 months a year. take your salary, divide it by 9. Nobody made you become a chose it, you went to school for it & you applied for the job.

Increasing funding to school unions does nothing for test scores...NOTHING. I look forward to Gov Scott trimming all the possible fat he can...starting w/ vouchers & school unions.

Look at the bright side state employees, we will get a raise in two years when the minimum wage is increased.

The comparison between public and private sector is invalid. Nick, JLT, and others have, I think, proved the point. Scott's proposal is tremendously short-sighted. Take the teachers, as an example. Their pay is well-below the national average; trade-off (of a sort) for the low wages is the pension benefits. The recession isn't always going to be around and there will be a need not only for more teachers (think class size and an eventual upturn in new residents) but also talented teachers. Dropping DROP is also shortsighted. Again, we won't always be in a recession and there isn't a second class of boomers coming down the pike (so an eventual shrinking of the labor pool). Some companies with foresight are already recognizing there is going to be a future "experience" drain. The public buys into all of this because they are hurting and angry and (let's be frank) most of them are working stiffs who do not have the time or inclination to parse through economic and public policy reports. Lawmakers and pundits give them easy villians and easy solutions which usually involve an either/or. Notice that Scott never proposed furloughs instead of job cuts or or graduated contributions based on income. They aren't interested in nuances or fairness. It's all slash and burn.

Misery loves company so since you in the private sector lost yours, we in the public sector should lose ours? I took the lower paying government job because I chose the profession and of the defined benefit at the end of my career. Now that I'm 3/4 of the way to retirement, my benefit is going to be cut by 1/3 and I'll have to work five more years that I wouldn't have had to. The only government workers that take the job expecting to get rich are the politicians (spending 50 million plus of one's own money to get a job that pays 250K a year sound familiar?). Oh, government workers ought to have to identify with the rest of us (private sector) and realize public money isn't free? I haven't been given anything free from the government in the twenty plus years I've been working for it. When I worked a private sector job, I had the option in investing in the company I worked for through profit sharing. How and where do the public sector employees get to do that? Everyone is comparing apples to oranges here. Most of us will not live long into retirement to be paid out. This is one reason the FRS is so healthy. Teachers work into retirement age because they still have bills to pay and can't afford to retire. Law Enforcement and firemen have a shortened life expectancies due to stresses and job injuries. I have a great idea, let's create private law enforcement and fire rescue departments. Now when your house is burning down, you're having a heart attack or there are armed intruders in your house with your family, you can try to decide which private police or fire rescue department will do the best job and at what cost. This is not scare tactics, it's the truth. If the politicians want the alleged "free ride" to end, show us by example. Tell us how much of a cut you guys will take (they're FRS too). In addition to their FRS pensions they have their real jobs (and pensions from) to fall back on (lawyers, doctors, etc.) Why do they need a special risk pension from FRS anyway? And no, most of us will not quit in masses because we all need jobs, but who will want to take our places when we do leave? Where will we all be then? Any volunteers to go serve a few arrest warrants for murder suspects? Remember, you get what you pay for.

I almost forgot, In addition to the Gov. who spent 50 million of his own money for a 250k yr job, State Senator J. Ring (D-PARKLAND) has millions from Yahoo and lives in a palatial estate. FRS is not broke so stop trying to steal from..errr I mean fix it.

C'mon people. Where can I get a job working 9 months out of the year (with half of the weeks in those months being 4 day work weeks or less), make 40 to 85K for those limmited hours AND THEN retire with 80% of my salary for the rest of my life after 25 years or so...

LOL - if contributing 5% of your salary for that is considered "slash and burn" as one "public trougher" put it - then lets get out the real axe and, god forbid put 27 kids in a classroom and get rid of the excess employees - and increase the pay of the teachers who actually get results.

Dear Gov. Scott:
Shame on you!!! You have publicly demoralized and devalued the role of education by your proposal to have teachers contribute to their pension fund. Is it not enough that teachers in Florida have not had a raise in several years? Chances are, if you are able to read this, a TEACHER taught or encouraged you in your early years. Without this encouragement there will be no Mark Zuckerbergs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffets, etc. Teachers do not have the luxury of taking advantage of rising rates in the stock market. What can you be thinking????

this is a copy of the letter I sent to Gov. Scott; I think Chad Lowe's cartoon yesterday was in very poor taste. Surely there is a teacher in HIS past who made it possible for him to achieve his position!

Dear Jeremy,
My pre-tax, pre-health care contribution pay is $40,000. By the end of all of my deductions ONE paycheck is $999.36, not kidding. Since 5% of $40,000 is $2,000 you do the math.

I knew exactly what my pay was going to be when I got into this field, however it is insulting to recieve nothing but pay decreases every year since my contribution to my health care has sky rocketed because the state keeps imposing regulations on things like class size and buying new textbooks every 5 years, but keeps decreasing the amount of money they send to the schools per child. This is ALL available under the states Sunshine Laws. If we are requaired to have certain technologies purchased, and a new textbook per child every 5 years, and the school districts have to increase the number of teachers they employ because of all of these laws and then the amount of money they recieve decreases, how are they supposed to pay us? I would like to reiterate that I am not looking for a pay raise. If you think we're doing it wrong I challenge you to go to the school board of Palm Beach County and you balance their budget of billions of dollars with a few extra million of income missing.

I am a state employee with the Dept. of Corrections. I have been with the Department for 20 years and have been a Sergeant for 18. I am just now making 39,000 a year. Yes, I made the choice to work for the state, obviously NOT for the pay, but for the benefits. I was thinking long-term, not short term. I do not have a problem paying in on my retirement, but I think it is WRONG for the budget to be balanced by taking from those who can least afford it. This man has cut thousands of jobs and has created none that I have seen except for those in his own office, and then he gave them raises of almost more than my annual salary! He is only worried about making the rich and powerful happy and fulfilling his political promises. He does not care about the citizens of this state. What average American would want to come to a state where they could not get a decent education for their children and have to pay 15% more for their college? Of course, if you are RICH it doesn't matter, you can send your children to private schools. Then there is the matter of the prison privatization. They make their money because they do not have to deal with inmates who are sick or elderly, who are management problems or have psychological issues. They hand pick their inmates, and if they have problems, they ship them to a state run facility. I guess if the state could hand pick the inmates they have, they could make a profit also. If the private corporation are forced to handle these types of inmates then they will not be able to make a profit, UNLESS they are WAY understaffed, which is a huge security concern, and if they are not forced to take these types of inmates, then guess what..the state will still be footing the bill for caring for these types of inmates...wake up Florida. The governor is misleading you..he cares only about the wealthy citizens. He doesn't care about any of the middle or lower class citizens, and you may be next on his list of cuts..

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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