Fate must be taking its revenge on me for making fun of universities that put "The" in their official names. A story in this morning's Tampa Tribune that represents my and other union members' views quite well quotes me as saying phrases such as "health of state pension fund" and " it's up to state Legislature." For the record, while I grew up in Southern California, I did learn American English (as opposed to British English or Valley Speak), and I am fairly sure I used the definite article in those instances.
One paragraph in the story is a little too cryptic for most readers:
Dorn said the governor doesn't want to boost the assets of the fund, but the deductions will only serve to "fund tax cuts for his buddies."
Here's the explanation: if Governor Scott was truly concerned about the state pension fund, his proposal to make state and other public employees pay into retirement would be on top of existing employer contributions. But that's not his proposal. Instead, he wants public employees to pay into retirement to substitute for the majority of current employer contributions. His proposal doesn't do squat to improve the position of the Florida Retirement System.
Thus far this year, the conservative Republican leadership in the legislature has been realistic about eliminating the state's corporate income tax, pointing to the deep budget hole the state faces. So where can Scott find the money to cut taxes? My wallet, but also the wallets of janitors, cafeteria workers, secretaries, and others who earn pitiful amounts as it is. According to a staff member at FEA, it is generally the case that former bus drivers and other staff-level retirees from school systems receive $900 a month or less in pensions. These are far from gold-plated pensions.
One friend and colleague asked about the possibility of a progressive system of employee contributions–say (to take one version of this), retirement contributions on the first $40,000 of income would come entirely from the employer, but contributions for income above $40,000 would be split with two-thirds from the employer and one-third from employees. In theory, this is a reasonable way to satisfy the public interest in having some employee contributions. In practice, it doesn't generate nearly enough cash for Scott to use for tax cuts.