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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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