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Florida Being Sued By Teachers Union

The 140,000-member statewide teachers union sued Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials Monday to block a new law that requires state employees to begin contributing to their retirement plans.

The challenge, filed in Leon County circuit court, asserts that the law’s required 3 percent contribution to the state’s retirement fund amounts to a breach of contract with public employees, who accepted their positions with the promise of certain benefits. Those benefits included a pension plan that did not require contributions.

“It is essentially an income tax levied only on workers belonging to the Florida Retirement System. It’s unfair — and it breaks promises made to these employees when they chose to work to improve our state,” said Florida Education Association president Andy Ford.

Florida lawmakers spent most of the 60-day legislative session on the pension bill. The state’s retirement system is in relatively good financial shape, but lawmakers acknowledged they needed the pension contributions — more than $1 billion from 572,000 public employees — to help offset a revenue shortfall of nearly $4 billion.

Scott had made pension reform one of his campaign issues and spent much of the session advocating for a 5 percent rate, arguing that Florida was the only state that did not require employees to contribute to their pensions. Amid heavy lobbying from law enforcement, teachers and other public employees, lawmakers settled on 3 percent.

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