Future of state retirement system in limbo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The future of Florida's state retirement system is in limbo as Republicans in Tallahassee line up behind two different reform plans.

While Republicans debate over how to reform the system, Democrats say leave it alone.

Guaranteed money for retirement is a thing of the past for most workers, but not state employees. They still get a pension backed by the state, but that promise is in jeopardy.

"We are spending, as the speaker has said, $50 million a year on catching up the retirement system," Sen. John Thrasher said.

Republicans in the Florida Legislature are worried the state won't be able to keep its promise. Both chambers have reform bills. The House plan would close the pension to new employees beginning in 2014.

"If we go with this plan, the savings are going to be in the tens of billions of dollars over the course of 30 years," Rep. Jason Brodeur said. "Now that's depending on a lot of assumptions, but it's a huge magnitude in the correct direction."

The Senate version only closes the plan to the highest paid state workers, and some see it as a fair compromise.

If you are comparing the two proposals, then yes the Senate has a much more moderate position," Sen. Oscar Braynon said.

Braynon said if the legislature has to choose, then his chamber has the better version. But Democrats from both chambers would rather see the session end with no reform.

"Why do we need to be messing with it at all?" Sen. Jeff Clemons said. "It's one of the healthiest plans in the entire country, and the truth of the matter is it's working just fine."

"I feel like this is a solution looking for a problem," Braynon added. "We have a healthy FRS system."

The House already passed its bill. Now time is running out for the Senate to act.

The reform comes on the heels of legislation forcing state workers to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to the pension plan. The Senate bill would reduce the contribution rate to 2 percent.