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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Apr. 3, 201412:00 PM EST

House pension discussions focus on old Senate plan

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House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said Wednesday that discussions about the future of the pension plan for public employees have begun to focus on a Senate bill that likely would have passed the upper chamber last year.

That measure would fall far short of Weatherford’s goal of closing the traditional, “defined benefit” pension plan to most new workers, a non-starter for a bloc of moderate Republicans who sunk a similar idea in 2013.

“I believe we can get a pension bill done this year that could save tens of billions of dollars for Floridians,” Weatherford said.

Last year’s Senate bill would have changed the default for Florida Retirement System members who didn’t select a plan in a set period of time to a 401(k)-style plan, lengthened the vesting period for employees who chose the defined benefit plan and given a discount on contributions to employees in the investment option.

Some GOP senators who voted against Weatherford’s proposal last year said during that debate that they would have voted for the original Senate plan.

The speaker, who refused to pass the Senate bill last year, admitted on Wednesday that he was scaling back his goals because of political reality, but said the changes would still save taxpayers.

“To me, that’s significant improvement,” he said. “That’s game-changing for our pension system and it puts the state of Florida in a position where it can be solvent long-term.”

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