06.27.2011 0

Florida Governor Rick Scott Sued for trying to save pensions

By Rick Manning – The past six months have seen public employee unions protesting around the nation attempting to resist attempts by elected representatives to rein in the massive overspending of their predecessors.

Scenes from Wisconsin to Indiana to even California have found those who have been hired by taxpayers to do the government’s business taking to the streets to keep the power, money and pensions that elected officials who they helped elect granted them.

In Wisconsin, the public employee unions even attempted to influence a judicial election in a brazen attempt to overturn the decisions by duly elected officials.

Now, the teachers union in Florida is suing the state over a change that was made in the law which would require their members to pay 3 percent out of their paychecks toward their retirement fund, instead of having that money provided by the taxpayers.

While I can feel some sympathy toward a public employee who entered this past year with one set of economic assumptions and had those assumptions turned on their head. That is exactly what the rest of America has been feeling for the past three years, largely due to government overspending, keeping these very public employees in the high style that they’ve become accustomed.

For some reason, public employee unions believe that they should be insulated from the economic hardships that the rest of America has faced, and 2011 has been a cold slap in the face for many across the nation.

Ironically, these very public employees who now are taking to the streets, during their lunch hour, to protest are at the heart of most of the largest budget problems facing our state and local governments.

In a March 3 report entitled, “Just how Big are Public Pension Liabilities” by State Budget Solutions. Author Bryan Leonard takes the pension issue head on when he writes, “One of the most insidious aspects of pension liability is its stealth nature. Pension obligations don’t appear on state balance sheets. As such, states with billions in unfunded pension liabilities may technically brag of ‘balanced’ budgets while being swamped by pension debt.”

Newly elected Florida Governor Rick Scott came to office determined to square away the state’s balance sheet, finding an unfunded pension liability that is estimated by the American Enterprise Institute to possibly be as large as $98.5 billion.

Unfunded pension liabilities are simply accounting tricks where government budget writers use monies that have been promised for the retirement of public employees to pay for other priorities. As the failure to put money into the pension fund snowballs, eventually the numbers become astronomical.

Ultimately, the irony of Governor Scott’s successful effort to have public employees pay for a part of their own pensions is that it is the first step in saving the retirement security for these very employees.

Let’s hope that the short-sighted attempts by the Florida teachers union to convince the Florida courts to unravel what Governor Scott and the elected state legislature have put in place fails.

Unfortunately, rather than praising the Governor for working to save their pensions, the unions are fighting and suing him every step of the way. Makes you wonder who actually represents the worker, doesn’t it?

Rick Manning is the Communications Director of Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Rick on twitter at @rmanning957.

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