Gov. Rick Scott is going to have to make a choice very soon: Does he want to be a Chris Christie or Arnold Schwarzenegger*? In other words, does he want to be known as a great governor or a mediocre governor?
This, of course, is not really a choice. Hell, even Barack Obama said he rather be a great one-termer than a mediocre two-termer**.
In one of my last posts yesterday, I praised Governor Rick Scott for taking on state pensions.
"I want to have a pension plan that people can rely on," Scott said. "That's my whole focus. It's only fair that if you're going to have a pension plan you're going to do just like the private sector does."
The previous day, the governor unveiled a proposal to save $2.8 billion over two years through a number of measures aimed at the state's retirement plans. Among them: the requirement that employees who participate in the Florida Retirement System contribute 5 percent of their salaries toward their benefits.
State workers and teachers haven't had raises in three to five years, leaving many to look at Scott's proposal as a pay cut. For some of them, who said they accepted low-paying government jobs because the benefits offset their meager paychecks, Scott is attempting to renege on the state's side of that bargain.
"We were all taught in kindergarten that you don't change the rules in the middle of the game," said Sharon Strange, a graphic designer for Broward County who earns $55,000 after 34 years on the county payroll. "They need to stop saying that we haven't been contributing to our pension. We have been, by taking a lower hourly pay."
I'm going to stop right here. Her hourly pay is roughly $26.44 an hour. Hell, I would kill for a job just making half of that. Rick Scott is only asking her to put $2,750 into her pension.
Sharon Strange is clearly unhappy with her job. She not enjoying being able to pay the bills and putting food on her table. If you are an unemployed graphic designer in Broward County, go to county management and tell them Sharon Strange is not liking the $55,000 a year and that you will happily take her place. Tell them she is incredible ungrateful that she is making $26.44 an hour, and that you will be more than willing to do her job for no less than $13.22 an hour! There needs to be a protest showing that THESE UNGRATEFUL *beep* PUBLIC EMPLOYEES, THAT THEY SHOULD BE ON THEIR *beep* KNEES, THANKING GOD THAT THEY HAVE A *beep* JOB, ON OUR DIME!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!
Sharon Strange is a great example of the culture of ungrateful corruption in the public sector. I'm sure she is a good and god-fearing person. I'm also sure that for every Sharon Strange, there are more public employees who are grateful for their job and paycheck***. But this "woe is me" thing will not fly anymore, not when you have a job and over two**** in ten people in Florida is jobless.
But I digress. I just get so mad when I see crap like that. Governor Rick Scott's plan breaks down as so:
Last year, despite the budgetary crisis, legislators were unwilling to make workers contribute just one quarter of 1 percent of their salaries toward their pensions. It was an election year.
Now Scott is demanding 20 times more than that - a 5 percent contribution. You can call it long overdue if you pay into your own pension plan, or you can call it a pay cut if you are a state employee who hasn't gotten a raise since 2006.
Scott also wants to phase out the annual 3 percent cost-of-living adjustments and defined pension plans, putting new employees in 401(k) plans.
These changes would affect all state employees. But then Scott goes further in reducing benefits for public-safety workers, changes that also would affect politicians and judges.
This has to do with the all-important accrual rate.
Public-safety workers get an accrual rate of 3 percent. So if a firefighter works for 25 years, he multiplies 3 percent times 25 and comes up with 75 percent.
So he can retire at 75 percent of his pay after working 25 years.
Scott wants to reduce the accrual rate to 2 percent. So after 25 years, the same firefighter would receive 50 percent of his salary.
Scott also would lower the accrual rate of politicians and judges. Right now, politicians get the same 3 percent as cops and firefighters, while judges get a whopping 3.3 percent.
Scott would cut these accrual rates to 1.6 percent. This is only fair, because it is what rank-and-file state workers get. A teacher who works 30 years retires at 48 percent of his salary.
Giving politicians a better deal than teachers is not defensible. (BG5: Agreed)
In addition, Scott would eliminate the infamous DROP program, which allows state employees to double dip by collecting pension benefits while still working. It is a scam that rips off taxpayers and thwarts the movement of new, young employees into government.
Many politicians have benefited from DROP, and legislators have balked at any meaningful reform.
These are real reforms. Hell, Gov. Rick Scott froze four contracts worth $235 million for SunRail. So he may very well be listening to us, the people of the great state of Florida.
Mike Thomas asks the question, does Rick Scott want to become the spineless Charlie Crist or Arnold Schwarzenegger who always backed down from meaningful reform? Or does he want to be celebrated by the people, like Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey?
Florida (and to a large extent, the United States) is burning with debt. Will Scott fiddle, or will he do something about it? Gov Rick Scott is coming to my back-yard to unveil his budget. Clearly, we will know in the day after the Super Bowl.
*Did you noticed that the fat man had more spine than the muscle-building movie star? Never judge a book by it's cover.
**Maybe he'll be known as a great, one-term ultra spender who spent us to our grave.
***And I do sympathize that they don't get a pay-raise and this pension reform will cut into their paychecks. However, bloody hell, be humble that you even have a paycheck if you are a public employee.
****I'm including the underemployed here.