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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Feb. 9, 201612:00 PM EST

Mayor Lenny Curry's pension plan clears another legislative hurdle

by: David Chapman

Another stop, another favorable outcome for Mayor Lenny Curry’s pension payment plan.

On Monday, the Florida Senate’s Finance and Tax Committee unanimously approved Curry’s push for a half-cent sales tax extension that would be used to pay down the city’s crippling $2.7 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

If approved in Tallahassee, the plan would need City Council and voter approval among others, but the Legislature is the first necessary step.

The proposal was approved by the Senate’s Community Affairs Committee and House Finance & Tax Committee in late January. That leaves just the Senate Rules Committee and House State Affairs Committee.

The latter has it on its agenda Wednesday.

Bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, presented the legislation Monday to the group, guiding it through a series of amendments.

Most were technical, although one clarified the tax would terminate Dec. 31, 2060, or when the pension plans reached or exceeded 100 percent funded, whichever comes first.

In previous pension reform discussions locally, when the question of what “fully funded” meant was brought up, some considered 80 percent to be a manageable threshold.

The Senate amendment locks in the timeframe and protects taxpayers, who must decide whether they will tax themselves to solve the issue, Bradley told the committee.

There was no debate on the bill, but a couple of questions were asked.

One in particular came from Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, who wanted to know exactly how Jacksonville’s pension problems became so bad.

Bradley’s response: A series of bad decisions from past leadership over a long period of time.

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