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Florida Supreme Court Gets Pension Ruling

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The battle over a requirement that members of the Florida state employees pension fund pay a 3 percent contribution is far from over. The Florida Supreme Court will consider the ruling by a circuit court judge invalidating the contribution, bypassing the court of appeals.

In a short memo, the First District Court of Appeal said it would not rule on a decision made last week. Saying the issue was of great public importance, the appellate court urged the Florida Supreme Court to step in now instead of waiting for the inevitable appeal after a ruling at the appeals court level.

“We’re pleased that this case will move more quickly toward its final resolution,” said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford. “This could help hundreds of thousands of middle-class Florida families who have seen their incomes tumble while the governor and legislative leaders handed out tax giveaways to corporations.”

Last week, Judge Jackie Fulford barred the state from requiring employees hired before July 1, 2011, to contribute 3 percent of their income to their retirement plans. Her ruling also struck down a portion of the law that would reduce the cost-of-living increase for those employees.

Opponents of the law said they expect the state to continue withholding the 3 percent until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the issue.

If the state is forced to abandon the contributions, they’d be forced to find more than $861 million a year, money that would eventually have to be paid back if the appeal fails. It would cost counties around $600 million a year to have the changes reversed, likely leading to service cuts at the local level, according to local governments.

Gov. Rick Scott told reporters last week that Fulford’s ruling “doesn’t make any sense” and said she had overstepped her bounds.

“This is writing the laws of the land,” Scott said. “That is wrong. And I’m very comfortable this will be held to be constitutional.”

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