I posted a link to Rick Wilson’s awesome Ricochet article “The Risk of Crist” on my Facebook page yesterday, and boy did that stir up some drama! My intention was to keep some of my friends from becoming one-issue voters. As a retired cop who is married to a cop, many of my friends are cops. And overall, law enforcement officers in Florida aren't too keen on Rick Scott. Why? One issue, nay one word: pensions.
The Florida Retirement System is a robust and healthy system, fully solvent and self-sustaining. Since inception the system was non-contributory for employees with the state paying in on their behalf. Governor Rick Scott worked hard to change that though, and effective July 1, 2011, state government workers were required to contribute to their retirement themselves. This affected my life tremendously. We are a single-income family. I'm a stay-home mom; I left the force in 2010 because we felt it would be a better decision for our family overall. Before leaving we carefully scrutinized our budget to be sure we could survive on my husband’s salary alone. We cut what we could so we manage, but I'm not going to lie sometimes it’s pretty tight.
When my husband had to start contributing 3% of his income in July of 2011 we felt it immediately. We'd already had hits to our budget in the forms of increased health insurance premiums, utility bill taxes, and food costs. All of this while my husband’s salary remained stagnant, having not had a raise since 2007 due to nonexistent property tax funds from a lackluster economy.
If anyone has cause to be angry about the pension issue it’s me. When you have less to begin with, reductions are felt far more. But while I miss the added income I also understand why it was done. There’s a good reason 48 of the 50 states require government workers to contribute to their pension: It isn't reasonable to believe pensions can be sustained by tax dollars alone. It was once, when there were fewer workers living shorter lives post-retirement, but that isn't the case anymore. Even fully-funded private-sector jobs are almost non-existent now, with the vast majority of employers requiring some sort of employee contribution.
Here’s where we get to my main point though: Even if you are mad at Rick Scott over the pension issue, you cannot (well, you should not) make that issue the cornerstone of your voting choice. One of my cop buddies said “There is no bigger issue than (pensions)... they want to change your financial future, there is nothing more important.” Actually, I disagree.
Here are issues I consider to be more important than a 3% hit to my family’s income:
The sanctity of life. Charlie Crist is all over the place on abortion, consistently saying he’s “personally pro-life” but believes in a woman’s right to choice. His campaign says the two points aren’t “mutually exclusive,” but I strongly disagree. Rick Scott has voted consistently pro-life.
A successful economy. With Crist, Florida lost almost 830,000 private sector jobs in four years. With Scott, Florida has gained over 620,000. With Crist, Florida unemployment was at a staggering 11.1%, with Scott, it is down to 6.2%. Crist added $5.2 million in state debt, Scott reduced Florida’s debt by $3.6 million.
A safe nation. Crist will stump for Hillary, make no doubt of that. After campaigning against Obama in 2007 he changed his tune campaigning heavily for Obama in 2012 — and let’s face it, Obama’s opponents in those two elections weren't all that different from each other. Florida is always a crucial swing state in Presidential elections (with the I4 Corridor where I live a swing area within the state), so having gubernatorial support for a Presidential candidate is kind of a big deal. A President H. Clinton might be a slight improvement over the current one regarding world affai- (wait, nope. I just remembered Benghazi). World affairs would improve marginally, at best. I can't say who Scott will back but I'd bet money on it being someone other than Hillary.
That last one is the area I am selfishly most concerned with. Being the wife of an Army reservist who is subject to deployment, I live expecting MOB orders to come any day. I watch the news wondering where my husband is headed next. Will it be Iran? Syria? Back to Afghanistan? When he goes, how safe will he be? 73% of the U.S. casualties in Afghanistan have been under Obama’s watch. With my husband, best friend, and father to our sons subject to deployment, I have a vested interest in our world position. While it may be important to you, it has the potential to be life-or-death to the head of my family.
If you are pro-choice, anti-economic growth and not at all concerned by our nation having another four years like the past eight, a Governor Crist is probably right up your alley regardless of what letter sits next to his name. But if these issues concern you, I implore you to consider more than 3% monthly and look at the big picture. Not to be overly dramatic, but the fate of our nation may depend on it.