Two years ago, the state Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott in effect levied a tax on public employees by requiring them to contribute three percent of their salaries to the Florida Retirement System. Labor organizations took the issue to court, arging that the state couldn’t balance its books with an illegal manuever.
Today that long battle came to a disappointing end when the Florida Supreme Court upheld the three-percent income tax levied on public employees in the state. In a 4-3 decision, the justices overturned a circuit court ruling that said the Florida Legislature overstepped its authority by ignoring the Florida Constitution in taking three percent from the paychecks of Florida’s teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, nurses and other public employees. Justices Barbara Pariente, Jorge Labarga, Ricky Polston, and Charles Canady offered the majority opinion. We are particularly disappointed in Pariente, who seems to have forgotten that public sector workers were easily the strongest allies of the court in the November election, when the Legislature sought to remove several justices, including Pariente, through an ill-conceived ballot measure.
This is frustrating news for those who work to make Florida a better place. Balancing the state budget on the backs of middle-class working families is the wrong approach for legislative leaders and the governor to take. We join our fellow public employees in being disappointed that the state’s highest court said this approach was legal. This decision affects Jackson employees who are either still in the FRS system, or in the PHT pension system, which mirrors the FRS.
The leaders in the Legislature chose this irresponsible way of balancing the budget instead of properly addressing the shortfall they created. Over the past decade, the Legislature has chosen to provide tax giveaways to investors and corporations that have accumulated to billions and billions of dollars with little to show in return. Legislative leaders have a number of avenues that they can use to address any budget shortfall – such as closing sales-tax loopholes, aggressively collecting sales tax on Internet sales, or repealing the tax giveaways for investors and corporations.
This is another important reminder that it is critical get involved in your government — to elect leaders who will listen and to hold their feet to the fire if they don’t. Join us at COPE meetings to stay informed about what is happening at the local, state and federal levels that could affect you. Plan to join us this year for our Nurse Lobby Days in Tallahassee, which are on April 17-18. Contact your local rep or steward to find out how. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.