Thoughts from a non FRS member!

Scapegoating public employees seems to be more of an assault on working people and the middle-class,

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The following is a letter we received from a Tax-paying Florida Citizen, who is not associated with the Florida Retirement System.  We found it to be refreshing, and wanted to share it with our readers.  Thank you for your perspectives Mr. Cassidy!

To FRS Options,

I am not in the FRS.  I am also not related to anyone in it. I am really just a concerned Florida taxpayer, who does not believe that scapegoating public employees is fair or right. I do not believe that one small group of people should be punished, and essentially “taxed,” just because they chose a job or a career in public service.

Retirement benefits promised to public employees are not “pork,” but are in effect “a contractual agreement” with public employees. I do not believe that it is legal to break contracts or moral to break promises.

The economic downturn is not the fault of public employees; and, as a registered Republican, I am embarrassed that many Republican politicians, not only here in Florida, but across the nation, are attacking the pay, benefits, and pensions of public employees. Scapegoating public employees seems to be more of an assault on working people and the middle-class, and to protect big business and the ultra-wealthy, than it is an effort to balance the budgets of many states.

Additionally, I believe that a defined benefit retirement plan is better than a defined contribution plan, because it guarantees retirees a known amount of money they will be receiving and living on in their retirement, which is essential for older people and senior citizens. Converting the state’s retirement plan from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, even for new employees, would be costly and would threaten the plan’s investment potential. If Florida’s public employee retirement system is not broken, politicians should not be trying to fix it; and, even if it is broken, cutting benefits or changing the plan is not the solution, especially when it seems politically driven.

Unfortunately, certain media outlets and radio and television personalities have been whipping up the anger and resentment of people not in public employment; and, as a result, there is a huge wave of malice and discontent aimed at public employees by people who have been duped into believing that they are being taken advantage of by public employees. I do not believe this. Due to what is happening in other states, and by what I hear on television and read in online newspapers, it looks more like a politically motivated attack against public employees by certain politicians who are catering to special interest groups and who are more interested in their own political careers and ambitions, than they are in doing what is right, fair, and just. I dislike partisan politics, and I think that it works against America and is going to hinder our nation’s recovery from the economic downturn that it is now in.

Kindest Regards,

Lawrence Cassidy

  • angry retiree

    Wow, someone who is seeing through what I think is nothing more then a smoke screen by politicians to get the public to turn their anger against innocent workers and away from the failures of the politicians over the years that has led us to this point.

    It is not the public sector employee who has caused the nations problems but the conservative radio hosts and politicians sure have been having a field day distorting the truth to whipping up the publics anger towards public sector workers.

    To Mr. Lawrence Cassidy you sir have common sense and people like you are what this country needs.

    I to am a republican and refuse to join in the blame game against public sector employees. Yes I am retired and in the FRS system, but I also know that I put my life on the line for 25 years to earn my pension and I knocked on many doors to let families know loved ones would never be coming home again.

    What is being ignored is the fact those same public sector workers that are being targeted spend their pay checks in their local communities, from buying food to homes to cars and other needs.

    I earned my retirement and I am proud of the service I provided for 25 years. Saying that, I do know that we can always improve things and make things work better. But the all out attack on public sector workers is wrong and the radio hosts and politicians have cherry picked a hand full of places or people that ended up with very high pay and retirement benefits, I can assure you that the normal public sector employee is no better off then his or her neighbor.

    The average length of a Florida FRS pension pay out is only 9.53 years. The average amount paid for those pensions is less then $18,000 a year.

    Again Mr. Cassidy, you are a great american.

  • Anonymous

    MR. CASSIDY FOR GOVERNOR!

  • 26 year employee

    THANK YOU!!!!! As a 26 year employee I feel the same way. I too feel that my retirement benefits were a verbal agreement when I was hired 26 years ago and I have held up my end of the agreement. Our voices are being silenced by those above us….we are being told not to ruffle the feathers of those making the final decisions….therefore the only voices really being heard are the negative ones. So your letter was a breath of fresh air!

  • Dvenricksmail

    I love you Mr. Cassidy. Thank you for standing up for those of us who have a great deal to loose.

  • Sharon Giddens

    Thank you Mr. Cassidy for standing up and voicing your opinion. If our Congressmen and Senators would stop and think, they would realize they are ALSO government employees and SHOULD BE applying the same to themselves as they are the working government employees of our State. Maybe then they wouldn’ t be so quick to “fix what ain’t broke”!!!!!!!!!

  • Reedsmit

    Thank you Mr. Cassidy.

  • Angry Retiree

    Ancient document shows why state workers don’t pay into their retirement accounts

    A copy of the August 1974 Florida Retirement Bulletin, unearthed by a member of the Public Pensions Trustees Association, gives a glimpse into why the state stopped requiring employees to contribute a portion of their salaries into the Florida Retirement System: to save the state money. Here’s the 36-year-old document:Download 1974 Florida Retirement Bulletin

    Back in 1974, employees contributed 4 percent of their salaries to their retirement fund while special risk members (police, firefighters, etc.) contributed 8 percent. But if those employees left the state workforce, they were entitled to have their contribution return to them in the form of a refund — costing the state that year a whopping $30 million and setting up an unfunded liability. “The primary purpose in changing FRS to a non-contributory plan is to help eliminate the unfunded liability documented in past actuarial studies of state retirement systems,” the newsletter states.

    The end result of the change was to increase the state’s contribution from 4 to 9 percent for regular class members — where it remains today — and from 8 to 13 percent for special risk members.

    Today, Gov. Rick Scott wants state and local government to withdraw 5 percent of its contributions and have employees make up the difference. He is doing it to save the state money again — only it’s the reverse of 1974, with the money flowing into the retirement system coming from employees, not employers. The governor gets a $1.3 billion savings to the state by withholding 5 percent of the state’s contribution to the FRS or, in the case of local governments, from local government revenue sharing plans. It’s not clear whether employees could withdraw that money if they leave the FRS, under Scott’s plan, as they did in the past or not.

    So far, the Florida Senate is considering asking employees to shift money from employee paychecks to their retirement accounts at rates of about 2 percent of their salaries, while the House has yet to propose a plan.

    If you want to see the 1974 Florida Retirement Bulletin go to Miami Herald Naked Politics and download it.

  • http://www.floridaretirementsystem.info FRS Options

    They are interesting to read. I think, from an actuarial standpoint, the employee contributions are accounted for differently, as all employee contributions are subject to refund (but earnings or interest are not). By making it employer only, they alleviate some of that issue, but also take control in other ways as well. One advantage to employee contributions is the plan may become more of a bilateral contract, instead of the current “the state makes all the rules”, and can change them merely by amending statutes. While it isn’t as good as 0, 2% isn’t bad, and with it coming out before taxes, it won’t be a 2% cut on takehome pay. Probably something that members could live with!

  • Bredke

    The Florida Retirement System is one of five state retirement systems
    which is _NOT_ projected to go into deficit during the 2000’s.

    Rauh, Joshua D.,
    “Are State Public Pensions Sustainable?
    Why the Federal Government Should Worry About State Pension Liabilities”
    (May 15, 2010).
    Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1596679

    Page 3 and Table on pages 27 and 28.

    Joshua D. Rauh, Northwestern University – Department of Finance;
    National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

  • http://www.orlandoinsuranceadvice.com Orlando Insurance

    Thats great. I am not in FRS either but i feel the exact same way as the person who wrote that letter. There is no reason government should penalize people who chose a certain job path. One in which i think is more important than any other.

  • Arkady

    Amen! I am a public employee, and I make less than 25K a year. Most of my coworkers make about the same, less than 30k a year.Part of the reason I took this job was because I love what I do (I work at a bookstore for a community college) was for the pension. Everything I had ever read about financial planning said to get a job that would give you a defined-benefit pension for retirement. 401 K, though helpful, tends to not last. I don’t know why we are being punished for thinking about and trying to prepare for our future. We don’t take these jobs for the high salaries. True, there is some abuse that goes on, but that will happen any time you are dealing with money. But the vast majority of us will be hard hit if the governor’s “reform” passes! And I think it is just because Gov. Scott has found a new money pot, not that he really wants to reform the pension plan!

  • Oalonso519

    Mr. Cassidy
    You are truly a citizen that sees through the Bull. What is so sickening on this issue is that in reality, as it was recently uncovered, the FRS is a very small portion of the state budget. If I recall, the number was 2.9% of the state budget. Even if the republican control legislature gets its will regarding the proposed changes to the pension plan, the budget will not be fixed. Unfortunately, many voted down party lines without considering some of the repercussions that would follow. If the situation continues to worsen in Florida, we might have to find a new sunshine state because this one would have fallen into darkness.

  • David

    Please run for govenor!

  • taxpayer 43

    FRS assumes 8% future earnings. Does anyone know what rate they have actually earned in the last 5 or 10 years?

    I agree that workers in the 20 – 30K salary range need all the help they can get, but Gov Scott shows over 500 workers who retired with state pension benefits of more than $100,000 per year. I know school teachers who have salaries of $70 – 75,000 and one of them recently increased her income by using the DROP program.

    There has been a shift over the last 30 to 40 years, with people living longer. A number of corporations have cancelled their defined benefit plans and encouraged workers to contribute towards their retirement. As the pressure increases on the non-government workers, to produce more for less, resentment will continue to build towards the government employees until the benefits are similar.

    For example – One of my relatives worked for years for a non-union Florida hospital. A few years ago we compared the retirement benefits for the nurses with the retirement benefits of the unionized county EMT’s. The nurses were contributing toward their retirement and their retirement benefits were less than half of the EMTs, who weren’t contributing. So my nurse relative was contributing to her own retirement and her taxes were helping fund better retirement benefits for the EMTs. Go figure.

  • http://www.floridaretirementsystem.info FRS Options

    FRS assumes 7.75% per year future earnings. They have averaged well over 9% per year for the past 20 and 30 year periods. The debacle of 2008-9 has brought the last ten year average to about 6%. The assumptions are sound by any actuarial standard or practice, and have been earned. Please refer to our post “FRS Changes Ahead” we did a while back, it shows ALL of the returns.
    http://frsoptions.info/florida-retirement-system-pension-plan/frs-change-ahead

  • Maemae49

    I am in the FRS program and will be retiring soon, but I am very disappointed to find changes which could effect my retirement years negatively. I ‘ve worked hard for 31 years to serve this community and feel sorely used. In todays economic climate cutting benefits for public employees who when hired were promised certain benefits which enticed many to take current positions, but now being told , “well we changed our mind, we’ve use you up now move along”.

    The decisons made by the Congress is detremential to the well being of government entities. Currently many employees have not received raises in 3-5 years. Many employees are forced to take fulough days. Now you are asking them to take an additoal 3% from there salaries for retirement, some will be forced to ask for assistance to help feed their families, others will retire even earlier because working no longer benefits , but harms them. The price of everything is increasing, but not their salaries. Governement will be the losers, because an unmotivated workforce will not anymore than what they are paid to do.
    Take away everything which lured people to work for a company and you lose good people, and create low moral. Employees are being layed off, asked to work harder with fewer , yet smile at the public. How long will it be before the public complains because they are getting lack luster service. People who don’t feel good about their jobs , don’t give their best.

  • Isoracastro

    Mr. Cassidy, very well stated. I decided many years ago(24years) to be a public servant. I am very proud of the quality of service that I provide. I did this knowing that, with my educational credentials and area of expertise I could make much more money in the private sector. I am very passionate about my work, i put in long hours and more than 5 days a week. I don’t regret my decision, even with all the attacks on public employees, because there is nothing better than investing in the life of a child. I hold my head high because i know what i am doing for others. however, the impact that this legislation is going to have is long-term and devastating to the public sector. One day the economy will turn and government revenues will be back up and the public sector is going to be hard pressed to recruit and retain qualified professionals and then everyone looses, (which may be the purposes of this and other legislative initiatives). It is unfortunate. But i want to thank you for your support of public employees because people forget that we are tax payers too.

  • Anonymous

    Is this 3 % contribution just another shell game? It appears that the money just goes into the general fund – How does this benefit the retirement fund? If all it does is go to the general state coffers, then it sure does quack like an income tax. If it is, let’s let al state residents contribute 3% to the general fund.

  • http://www.floridaretirementsystem.info FRS Options

    It does NOT go into the general fund. It goes into FRS – by law, both statute, and constitutional. I don’t know where people come up with the general fund falacy. This is a line item from the new proposal:
    122 121.4503, F.S.; providing for the deposit of participant contributions into the Florida Retirement System Contributions Clearing Trust Fund
    The Fl. Retirement System Contributions Clearing Trust Fund is what steers the money to the appropriate part of FRS – either the Pension, Investment Plan, or other option within FRS.

    Come on people, lets quit perpetuating myth, it makes us as bad as the politicians and media. There is enough fact to be upset about without playing their game.

  • http://www.floridaretirementsystem.info FRS Options

    They have all had the same language. Any money collected for retirement must go to FRS. It is not going to the general fund no matter how much you want the conspiracy to happen. Other than the 17% of actual state employees, the other 83% comes from non-state, employers such as counties, cities, and colleges. Please read a little further into the statute and definitions and you will find it is inclusive of:

    “State and county officers and employees” shall include all full-time officers or employees who receive compensation for services rendered from state or county funds, or from funds of drainage districts or mosquito control districts of a county or counties, or from funds of the State Board of Administration or from funds ….”

  • Scared

    thank you Mr. Cassidy. I will have 30 years in the FRS in July of 2011. Just days before my whole life is suppose to change. I also do not think punishing the public servants who worked for less money to have more benefits should be punished. I do know the state has to tighten the purse strings but breaking a “contract” with the very workers who run this state is unspeakable.

  • Guest

    Now that the Gov has changed the FRS to a contributary plan. he does not get to override federal law and dictate the vesting scheduel to one which is less favorable to the employee than is required by federal law.  
      Just a thought everyone seems to be overlooking,,, especially our unintelligent pawn of a Governor.    FRS members… Ye are now hereby beginning to be vested after two full calendar years of service ( 50% ) and fully vested ( 100%) after no more than seven years of service….    Right on Rick Scott !!!!   This should save the state some money and retain employees…    NOT !!!!

  • http://www.floridaretirementsystem.info FRS Options

    We are not sure what federal laws you are referring to, and are having a little trouble understanding the second paragrapah at all. FRS, as a state pension plan, is not subject to ERISA (if that is what you are referring to), and the Vesting schedule for the Pension Plan is 6 years for current members, and 8 for those hired after July 1 – or did we miss something.

  • Didyougetthememo

    From: Governor Rick Scott To: Governor Rick Scott Sent: Tue, June 28, 2011 10:06:13 AMSubject: Thank you for contacting Governor Rick ScottThank you for contacting Governor Rick Scott and sharing your concerns about the Florida Retirement System and the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP).  The Governor asked that I respond on his behalf. Governor Scott realizes that the Florida Retirement System (FRS) represents a promise to government employees at the state and local level and that they make important decisions about their future based on that promise.  In its current state, the FRS cannot make good on those promises; therefore, Governor Scott signed into law Senate Bill 2100, an act relating to retirement, on May 26, 2011. This legislation reforms the FRS, and begins to bring the public sector retirement system in line with the benefits of workers in the private sector.  This will restructure the system in a manner to enable the FRS to meet its future financial obligations without new taxpayer contributions. These reforms are expected to save Florida’s public employers $2 billion in personnel costs each year. There are four major components to this legislation.  First, the bill implements a 3 percent employee contribution; second, it eliminates the automatic cost of living increase on retirement benefits earned after July 1, 2011; third, it reduces the annual interest rate of the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) from 6.5 percent to 1.3 percent for participants entering DROP on or after July 1, 2011; fourth, the new benefit design will require 8 years of service for vesting, calculate average final compensation on 8 years earnings, and extend the retirement dates for members enrolled after July 1, 2011. Information about the Governor’s bill actions can be found on the Governor’s web site at http://www.flgov.com/bill-action/ . Thank you again for taking the time to contact the Governor’s Office.   Sincerely, Kira R. FryeOffice of Citizen Services