House Speaker Will Weatherford’s plan to reform the Florida pension system is based on a false assumption the plan is broken. He tells us he is looking after taxpayer interests by implementing a 401(k)-type plan for public employees. Both Weatherford and the editors of the Tribune (“Pension reform deserves new try,” Our Views, Aug. 6) have left out a couple of very important details regarding the Florida Retirement System.
Public employees who participate in the system contribute to the fund just like everyone else in a retirement plan. Furthermore, the state pension system already has a 401(k)-style option available. A worker is required to decide which plan to be in when hired. An employee may change their decision once prior to retirement. The best way to explain the plan is to look at the description on the FRS website. I wonder if the Tribune editors know this part of the fund actually exists. Weatherford does but chooses to keep it from public view.
The website states: “FRS also offers an Investment Plan with a shorter vesting period, which allows you to control your investments and take vested contributions with you if you leave government employment. After your initial plan selection, you are permitted to switch between plans once before terminating your employment. We strongly encourage all employees to take advantage of no cost or obligation Advisory Services provided by Ernst & Young.”
All of Weatherford’s concerns are pushed aside by the plan currently in place. The “talking point” that public employees are not up to handling their own finances is disgraceful and unfounded. This topic should not be included in any discussion regarding public employees. Readers would be amazed just how financially savvy their servants are. We are more than capable of managing our hard-earned dollars.
The Florida Retirement System is one of 17 funds in the United States that are properly funded. Can there be an event in the future to affect the funding level? Of course! However, all 401(k) plans will also be adversely affected by a “black swan.” The planners trusted with funding our plan have done an extraordinary job. Our plan is funded at an 86.9 percent level. The planners were able to keep the funding at an adequate level even after the 2008 crash.
The writer is a retired Hillsborough County sheriff’s master sergeant.