The Florida Legislature is reaching the end of the 2013 session with no clear picture of pension reform. In the House they have HB 7011 and the Senate does not like that bill. In the Senate they have SB 1392 and the House does not like that plan. We do not like either bill as they are both bad for Special Risk members in Law Enforcement and all public employees. Some would suggest we accept the Senate version SB 1392 because it is just a little bit of poison. Any poison is still poison.
The alternative, status quo, with no bill passing into law still leaves us with the mischief the legislators created two years ago implementing a 3% contribution, making sure that no new employee will ever again earn a cost of living adjustment in retirement, increasing the number of years to earn a retirement and so forth.
This year the Republican leadership is hell bent on undermining one of the most successful pension plans in the nation. At a time when our members are called upon to serve and protect this great state from all types of threats, they want us to accept for future officers an investment program that was never intended to be a pension. Our members earn their defined benefits with their blood and their sweat. The mission of the Fraternal Order of Police has always been to fight for the benefits our members deserve, to honor the service and sacrifice of every man and woman behind a badge. And when one of us falls in the line of duty, the “thin blue line” stands strong for our survivor families. That is the Fraternal Order of Police and we are proud to fight for all law enforcement.
Of course we object to both of these bills. Instead of addressing actual problems, both the House and Senate attack the idea of a pension because it just doesn’t coincide with the modern mission of the Republican Party. These bills are a solution searching for a problem. As Representative Irving Slosberg so eloquently put it “go pick someone else’s pocket”! It should be clear that a state like Florida where our economy depends so heavily on retirement incomes it is counterproductive to attack the good hard working middle class public servants who make this state so desirable to so many who come here for our good life. Our public employees deserve better representation in Tallahassee than what is being proposed here. Let’s take a look at a future police officer or deputy sheriff working under the defined contribution plan or what should better be called the “investment plan”. Sitting alone in his patrol car like 26 year old M.I.T. Police Officer Sean Collier in Boston on April 18th, 2013 when he was executed, shot and killed in the line of duty for no reason other than what he represented; law enforcement. Officer Collier had joined his department and served since January 2012.
Just how much of a “death benefit” would his family have received if had been defaulted into the investment plan, under Senate Bill 1392, after just 15 months on the job. It is shameful these Senators in favor of this bill would even consider such a scenario.
In the D.C. investment plan, let’s guess an average annual return of 6% on their funds. A bit ambitious in today’s economy but with decent investments an officer or deputy putting in between $1,500 and $2.500 per year would accrue about $60,000 at the end of their career. Hardly enough to retire on, so they buy a 20 year annuity to protect their money and are then provided a meager $353.00 a month to live on in 25 or 30 years from now. Really? To buy groceries and gas and pay the utilities. But wait you say, what about Social Security? Well, many agencies opted out of Social Security many years ago. Those that did pay into the system will have their Social Security reduced by 2/3rds to the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision. I know, because I am a victim of that scheme.
Most of us are happy to keep the meager benefits earned through their hard labor and risks they take over the life of their career, sacrificing compensation today so that they may have something to depend on tomorrow. We are not in favor of some “Wall Street crap shoot”. Risking our future and the future of our families on an investment plan is not acceptable.
These are bad bills for everyone involved. Tell your Representative and your Senator to vote against this train wreck.
That’s my opinion, what do you think?
James W. Preston, President
Florida State Lodge
Fraternal Order of Police
A Few Harsh But Very Real Scenarios
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->Detective David White was shot and killed during a raid of a suspected drug house on the 4800 block of Alligator Boulevard, in Middleburg, at approximately 6:30 p.m. The home was occupied by six squatters who were using it as a meth lab.
As Detective White and another detective approached the front door one of the occupants immediately opened fire, striking both of them. The subject then ran through the home and tried to flee through a back door where he encountered another deputy who fatally shot him.
The five other occupants of the home were taken into custody.
Detective White was a military veteran and served with the Clay County Sheriff's Office for nine years. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Detective White was 35 years old and had 9 years of service with the Clay County Sheriffs Office. The starting salary of a deputy in Clay County is $34,650. If 1392 passes and he had been defaulted in to an investment plan, his family would have had no survivor benefit other than the money accrued in to his investment plan. Calculating 15% for 9 years would be an estimated 46,777. That is the amount the family would have received from his dc investment plan. If not defaulted into the dc investment plan, the family would have received the db death benefit of his full pension.
In a look at the big picture, Senate Bill 1392 may be better than House Bill 7011 but it still does nothing good for the pension system.
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->"Sergeant Ruben Thomas was stabbed to death by an inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institution Annex.
At approximately 10:00 pm he was checking on an inmate in one of the prison's dorms when he was attacked. He was stabbed in the neck several times by the inmate who was armed with a shank. The inmate, who was serving a life sentence for murdering a college student, then struck another officer in the eye with a sock filled with a heavy item before being taken into custody.
Sergeant Thomas was transported to Shands Lake Shore Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds.
Sergeant Thomas had served with the Florida Department of Corrections for six years. He is survived by his young daughter and fiancee. The starting salary of correctional officer in Florida is $30,807.92, with six years of service his investment plan would be the benefit his family received. If he defaulted in to the investment plan, where will his family be? 15% for 6 years would be 27,727.12 to raise the daughter he left behind.
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->Deputy Brandon Coates was shot and killed while making a traffic stop near the intersection of South Nashville Avenue and 45th Street at around 8:30 pm. Moments after radioing in the traffic stop 911 dispatchers received calls stating a deputy had been shot and received a description of the suspect's vehicle.
The vehicle was located at a nearby apartment complex. During the ensuing search for the suspect, the man's body was found suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Deputy Coates had served with the Orange County Sheriff's Office for 4½ years and was assigned to the Tactical Anti-Crime Unit. He is survived by his wife, who also serves as a deputy with the agency, his mother and brother. He was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Starting salary for a deputy in Orange County $38,001. How much had his investment plan accrued......? 15% for 4.5 yrs is an estimated 25,650.67.
(We have been generous and assumed that employer contribution and investment earnings would amount to 15%, the harsh reality is that investment plans rarely make that amount of a return)
Should our legislators be proud? Think about the great benefit that is left for someone who has made the ultimate sacrifice. The Senate members supporting this bill think that the legislation will take care of public safety members the same as the present FRS defined benefit plan. Have they been misled ? Or do they not care that they are potentially defaulting young rookies into a plan that has NO death benefit?
Call your Senators and tell them to vote against House Bill 7011 and Senate Bill 1392.
The Florida Senate is expected to vote on this bill next week......
Do your part and call them now......