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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 31, 201312:00 PM EST

Lawmakers refile local retirement benefits bill

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A bipartisan pair of lawmakers filed a new attempt at overhauling local pension plans for police and firefighters, similar to a bill that died in the showdown over retirement benefits during the 2013 legislative session.

The new measure (SB 246) — filed this month by Sens. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Jeremy Ring, D-Margate — is almost identical to last year's failed initiative.

It would allow local governments whose pension plans are under-funded for future benefits by more than 20 percent to use half of any increase in insurance premium taxes over the amount they raised in 2012 to pay down that deficit.

The rest of the money would be split between existing benefits and additional 401(k)-style packages, instead of "defined benefits" options.

Most other local governments would split the money between existing benefits and the 401(k)-style plans.

In a statement Wednesday, Bradley said the bill would address a large number of pension plans that don't have enough money to pay benefits. "When you combine the poor funding ratios with an increasing population of retirees, you have a ticking time bomb on your hands," he said.

Unions opposed last year's bill, saying it amounts to a bailout for officials who managed their plans irresponsibly; local governments are also wary of the proposal, which they say is more limited than a state agency's recent reinterpretation of how the premium taxes can be used.

Last year's bill died in the crossfire of a battle over a plan by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, to require all new state employees to enter a 401(k)-style, "defined contribution" plan.

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