TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans in the Legislature are still unhappy with a judge’s decision to strike down last year’s pension overhaul, with the Senate budget chief declining to rule out defying a court order to repay state employees.

Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fulford ruled Tuesday that a new law requiring state employees hired before July 1, 2011, to contribute 3 percent to their retirement fund was unconstitutional and violated a state law that essentially declares the pension plan to be a contract between the Legislature and employees.

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Fulford said the state should repay the workers the contributions with interest. But Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said Wednesday he didn’t think the judge had the authority to force the Legislature to do so — and left open the possibility that it might not.

“This is a very political decision by a very political judge that I think flies in the face of state Supreme Court rulings that clearly affirm the absolute, constitutional authority of the Legislature to make budget decisions,” Alexander said.

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Asked if he thought lawmakers should defy the ruling if it were upheld by the Supreme Court, Alexander responded: “I do not believe any court has the authority to dictate how the Legislature spends its money — any court, any executive branch, anybody.” In a radio interview, Scott expressed wonderment at Fulford’s ruling.

“She’s saying this is the law of the land — there’s no way it’s the law of the land,” he said. “The pension fund is dramatically underfunded.” The contributions were used to plug holes in this year’s state budget and are also a part of the spending plan for the next budget year, which begins July 1.

“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”

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