TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The Florida Supreme Court sounded skeptical Friday as it considered a legal challenge to a 2011 law that forced public employees to help pay for their pensions.

Five public workers unions, including the Florida Education Association, sued saying the law passed by the legislature is illegal.

Lawmakers began the practice of requiring worker contributions to the Florida Retirement System to help cover part of the cost. Currently, workers are required to contribute three percent of their salaries to the system.

A Leon County previously ruled the changes violated contract and collective bargaining rights, but the state appealed the ruling. Justices said legislators have the right to make decisions to help balance the state budget.

“This case is about our efforts to maintain a responsible and sustainable budget for the State of Florida,” Governor Rick Scott said in a statement Friday. “In 2011, the Legislature passed, and I signed, common-sense public pension reform, which requires public employees – like private-sector employees throughout Florida – to contribute to their retirement plans. Prior to this reform, Florida was one of only three states that did not require public employees to contribute to their pensions.”

If the Supreme Court upheld the Leon County ruling, it could cost the state $2 billion.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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