The board of directors of Jacksonville's Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution Friday opposing Mayor Alvin Brown's pension reform proposal pending before Jacksonville City Council.
"The Board of Directors of JAX Chamber will not endorse 2013-366 in its current form, but will continue to work with the Administration, City Council and the Police & Fire Unions to find an alternative plan which is effective, affordable and sustainable over the long term," the resolution reads.
"Duval County's first responders deserve to have their service rewarded with a pension that is funded, accountable and predictable. The legislation in front of City Council simply does not go far enough," Daniel Davis, JAX Chamber CEO said in a statement to the Financial News and Daily Record.
Late Friday, Mayor Alvin Brown's spokesman said this is an about face for the chamber, and a disappointment.
"“While the Chamber may be of two minds on this subject, Mayor Brown is not. This retirement reform agreement is good for taxpayers and fair for our brave public safety employees," David De Camp wrote in a statement. “Pension experts have confirmed that it will save $1.2 billion over 30 years, including $45 million in the coming year – enough to stave off deep cuts in city services. Over the next five years, the difference between passing and not passing retirement reform is nearly $100 million in the city budget. If that isn’t effective, comprehensive, and sustainable, we don’t know what is.
“For years, the issue of city pensions has lingered without resolution. Our choice is clear. We can squander this unique opportunity and risk foundering in years of litigation that could tie up millions of taxpayer dollars without solving the problem. Or we can take a historic step that will save taxpayers over $1 billion and make Jacksonville a leader in pension reform.”
Brown's proposed pension reform legislation is currently being reviewed by the Jacksonville City Council. Information on the retirement reform proposal can be found online at coj.net/retirementreform.
On Monday, Brown presented a budget for the coming year calling for $61 million in cuts, including closing three fire stations, six libraries, and deep cuts to the Sheriff's Office and every other city department. The mayor is hoping to offset that by getting council to agree to the pension deal.
Council members have criticized Brown's budget proposal and voiced irritation that they are being rushed to approve a 30-year pension agreement in order to avoid avoid drastic cuts in next year's budget.
"We aren't going to be held with a gun to our head with pension reform," Councilman Richard Clark said Wednesday during an appearance on The Morning Show. "You don't balance a budget this year, one year's budget, on a pension deal."