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Public employees support the economy

March 23, 2013
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To the editor:

Who do you think of when you hear "public servant"? Do you support our public servants as much as they support you?

Once again, the state legislature is playing with public servants' retirement. They are not only are they eliminating death and disability benefits that help families stay above the poverty line when faced with the loss or injury of their public servant family member, but they are also proposing that new hires be excluded from joining the traditional pension plan. These plans in House Bill 7011 are yet more of the egregious attacks on our public servants.

If I were the spouse of a firefighter or police officer, I know that I would live in a constant level of fear of the harm that could befall them since they put their lives on the line daily. Knowing that something should happen to them, I would feel relief that I could rely on their benefits to still support my family and care for my injured spouse. Without the death and disability benefits, families will not have this security.

What community expects something for nothing in return? If we expect them to put their lives on the line for us, we should be sure to offer them peace of mind that they will be taken care of if something should happen in the line of duty.

The proponents of this bill claim that these ideas will strengthen the retirement system, but I disagree. Should HB 7011 pass and new hires not be allowed to join the pension system, it will end up costing us more in the long run as taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill for the existing members in the pension. Also, it will force teachers, firefighters, police officers, and emergency personnel into high risk 401k style retirement systems with little guidance.

Should we have another recession, the likelihood that these people will have a secure retirement in a 401k plan is small. How did your 401k do during the recession? With public servants being a large portion of our tax base, this would take even more money directly out of local businesses' pockets, deepening any future recession.

A common idea that the proponents of this bill like to say is that the FRS' pension plan is unstable. I beg to differ. While it would be funded at a higher level if the legislature lived up to its promises, the FRS is one of the most solvent retirement systems in the nation as it is funded at 87 percent.

Should HB 7011 pass, however, that fact will no longer be true.

In fact, school districts across Florida will have to cut workforce, benefits, and money to the classroom to help make up the difference.

Teachers work hard at providing the best possible education for your children. We shouldn't make them worry about whether or not they will have retirement security at the end of the day. Doing that will have a direct impact on a child's education. Classroom funds will be taken away, leaving less money for new supplies, hiring more support and instructional personnel to support our kids, and updated books and technology.

You might be thinking, "How does this affect me?" Think about these questions:

Do you have children who attend school?

Do you expect your child's teacher to be their very best in educating your child?

Do you expect the fire department to arrive when your house is burning down?

Do you expect the police to patrol your area and keep things safe so your kids can play in the backyard?

Do you expect emergency services to respond when you are suffering from a heart attack or stroke?

Do you pay taxes?

If you could answer yes to any of those questions, then it affects you.

Our state has suffered enough financially through the housing market crash and the recession. If we continually allow our legislators to take money away from public servants, either through stripping them of retirement benefits or death and disability benefits, we are then allowing the legislators to take more money away from our local economies.

Please take the time to contact your legislator and encourage them to vote no on HB 7011.

Thank you,

Kelsey Lewis

Fort Myers



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