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Broward Schools joins lawsuit against retirement income tax imposed by Tallahassee

Posted on 20 June 2011 by LeslieM

FORT LAUDERDALE, May 20, 2011 – Members of the Broward Teachers Union have joined Florida public employees in filing a lawsuit today in Leon County Circuit Court in Tallahassee to stop the 3 percent pay cut otherwise known as a mandatory retirement income tax on school employees and other workers imposed by Governor Rick Scott following this year’s legislative session.

BTU President Pat Santeramo said Tallahassee Lawyer Ron Meyer on behalf of the union’s state affiliate, the Florida Education Association, filed the lawsuit today because the 3 percent mandatory retirement income tax, which amounts to a pay cut from school employees as “contributions” toward their Florida Retirement System (FRS) benefits, is unconstitutional.

“Florida’s leaders talk ad nauseam about the need to cut taxes for businesses and the state’s wealthiest residents and yet, when it comes to our police officers, firefighters and teachers, they didn’t even blink an eye when imposing this income tax increase,” Santeramo said. “Under the false premise of a retirement pension contribution, the governor and legislators are doing nothing more than trying to balance the state’s budget on the backs of public employees.”

The lawsuit alleges Florida law provides that the Florida Retirement System is one in which employees do not have to contribute part of their salaries and describes that as a contractual obligation of the State. The suit claims that the Legislature’s action unconstitutionally impairs those contractual rights.

The FRS collects retirement money for more than 900 state and local government employers in the state, covering 655,000 active employee members and providing benefits to 219,000 retired members. It has been a non-contributory plan since 1974.

The lawsuit names Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and John Miles, secretary of the Department of Management Services, as defendants in the lawsuit. Scott, Atwater and Bondi are the members of the State Board of Administration that is responsible for overseeing the Florida Retirement System Trust Fund and Miles runs the agency that oversees the fund.

Meyer will be representing BTU and FEA’s members in the lawsuit. He is requesting the court to segregate the money it collects from the 3 percent pay cuts and place it in an interest bearing account until the lawsuit is fully settled. If the court agrees with the claims, teachers, school employees and other public workers would receive their money back with interest.

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Scott Joins U.S. Chamber’s Bipartisan Governors Summit on Job Creation

Posted on 20 June 2011 by LeslieM

From the Governor’s Press Office

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Governor Rick Scott joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Chamber Foundation (NCF) today for a bipartisan summit of governors, state chamber executives, and leading business people to discuss policies—including those in Florida—that make states attractive for businesses to locate, relocate, and expand in this uncertain economy. The leaders also discussed the unintended consequences of specific state budget cuts and the investments the public and private sectors can make now to improve the economy in the future.

“When it comes to job growth, the state level is where the rubber meets the road,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. “Companies, capital, and jobs go where they are welcome. States must focus on expanding the economy by embracing free enterprise principals which will help businesses grow, prosper, and hire.”

Governor Scott discussed specific examples of how his administration has pressed for investments in several programs and initiatives focused on job creation and enhancing Florida’s economic competitiveness. For example, Governor Scott last week signed into law Senate Bill 2156 that allows a more unified approach and rapid response to job creation by consolidating the state’s economic development functions into the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Under Governor Scott’s leadership, Florida is the only state that has reduced taxes while balancing the state budget, despite a $3.6 billion deficit. The budget Governor Scott signed last month cut taxes for half of all Florida businesses and also eliminates unnecessary government projects through $615 million in vetoes.

The release of the 2011 Enterprising States study comes right on the heels of Florida’s unemployment numbers released last week, which show Florida leading the nation in job creation for the month of May. According to the newest unemployment numbers, Florida’s unemployment rate has declined each month since January, when Governor Scott took office, despite the national unemployment rate going up.

“Since January, Florida has created 76,800 new jobs. I am confident that our efforts to make this the most business friendly state are paying off and we will continue to see jobs go up and unemployment go down,” said Governor Rick Scott. “As the 2011 Enterprising States study points out, Florida is one of the leading states for creating jobs and making tough choices that will ultimately get our nation back to work.”

Governor Scott’s agenda is focused heavily on creating jobs, reducing state spending, making government more efficient, and lowering taxes. The centerpiece of his economic agenda, has been the Governor’s 7-7-7 Plan, a seven step plan that aims to create 700,000 jobs over the next seven years. The plan is focused on job growth that will accelerate the number of new business start-ups, increase wages and salaries, and shore up the productivity and vitality of Florida’s economy to provide new state revenues as a direct result of increased economic growth.

Governor Scott was joined by Governors John Hickenlooper from Colorado, Bob McDonnell from Virginia, Jack Markell from Delaware, Terry Branstad from Iowa, and Scott Walker from Wisconsin at the summit, which also marked the release of the second Enterprising States study. The study, prepared by The Praxis Group, highlights state-driven initiatives, including those in Florida, to redesign government, including dealing with excessive debt levels that inhibit economic growth and job creation, and implementing forward looking, enterprise-friendly initiatives with a primary goal of creating the conditions for job creation and future prosperity.

The study found that most states have already taken actions to streamline and downsize government to meet the new economic realities, and this has proven to be challenging given the increased demand for state services during the national recession. To recoup lost revenue, states have taken such actions as eliminating tax exemptions, broadening the tax base, and in some cases increasing rates as well as raising fees. Low tax rates by themselves are not a silver bullet for growth, but it has become clear that outdated state tax systems can undercut economic vitality. Any state with a budget tilting towards insolvency is in a weak position to make and maintain investments in its workforce and economic infrastructure.

“It’s tough to create an environment for job creation and the governors we heard from today are on the frontlines of our economic challenges,” said Margaret Spellings, president of the Chamber’s U.S. Forum for Policy Innovation. “We learned about the tools they are using to restore the stability and confidence that fuels our free enterprise system, and these are the lessons that we must apply if we’re going to continue to work on changing our stubborn economic trends. Our study, Enterprising States, is a snapshot of these effective policies and programs that every state can benefit from as a best practices road map towards economic recovery.”

The Enterprising States study is available at: http://www.uschamber.com/reports/enterprising-states-2011

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

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