Duval Dems studying pension tax ahead of referendum

Duval Democrats

The Duval County Democratic Party hasn’t taken an official position on Jacksonville’s Pension Tax Referendum yet — a measure approved unanimously by the council Tuesday — but that should change soon.

Chairman Neil Henrichsen told FloridaPolitics.com Thursday that the Democratic Executive Committee has formed a study group that should reach its conclusion in the next couple of weeks.

“We’re trying to have an informed position,” Henrichsen said, and the study group is comprised of a representative sample of party leaders.

One of the issues the group is dealing with is what Henrichsen described as a “lack of information” from the Lenny Curry administration on the mechanics of what would happen if the referendum passes.

The proposal, which would have locked city employees into a defined contribution model when floated originally in the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee in January, seems to have evolved.

The language of the bill passed Tuesday, unlike the original proposal, requires “adoption of the Pension Liability Surtax by the voters and successful collective bargaining to close one or more of the three existing defined benefit retirement plans.”

Theoretically, that could mean that the Police and Fire Pension Fund or another of the three current plans could stay open, with tax revenues going to one.

Henrichsen seemed at peace with that, saying the city has “got to be fair to first responders,” to both get them hired and to retain them.

It will be interesting to see how Jacksonville voters regard the referendum in light of the possibility that the reform measures originally proposed may not be as comprehensive as they were in the original pitch.

A University of North Florida poll  showed 36 percent support among Duval County residents for the measure, with 24 percent opposed and the balance undecided.

It should be stressed that poll did not use a “likely August primary voter” model, but was more a survey of community attitudes, ahead of an extended attempt to sell the measure by elected officials and political consultants.

With public opinion in flux, the eventual position of the Duval Democrats could be significant.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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