House COLA push for state workers could hit dead end in Senate
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 2/6/23-Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, chairs the Appropriations Committee, Monday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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'At this point I don’t see it making it to the finish line.'

A move to add back a 3% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for state workers’ pensions that the state took away in 2011 started to move in the House this week, but it could ultimately falter amid resistance in the Senate.

The House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the bill (HB 151). It would add a 3% COLA for members of the Florida Retirement System enrolled before July 1, 2011, and it would apply to the first $150,000 of annual benefit.

House budget chief Tom Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, pushed for the COLA addition last year as part of negotiations with the Senate on the final spending plan, but it didn’t make it into the final agreement, despite other pension boosters making the cut.

He said there’s still a need for the COLA to improve recruitment and retention throughout the state workforce amid a tight labor market. Leek said the House is willing to pay for it — despite the $2.1 billion price tag for state and local governments next year — even though he and House Speaker Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, have warned of slowing revenues and the need for a tighter budget this year.

“The policy decision is one that we’re willing to pay for,” Leek told reporters Wednesday. “We absolutely still see the need.”

But Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican, threw cold water on the prospect of the COLA addition this year.

“At this point I don’t see it making it to the finish line. We have so many other issues we need to address,” she told reporters Thursday.

The Senate version of the bill (SB 242) hasn’t received a hearing in the Regular Session.

Like last year, the House is including the COLA addition as part of the budget bills that will be part of formal talks between the chambers over the final spending plan.

Gray Rohrer


12 comments

  • Leonard

    February 2, 2024 at 2:38 pm

    Rick Scott promised law enforcement he would not eliminate the COLA…but did it anyway. Now 12 years later with record inflation crushing pocketbooks at the grocery store, gas pump, and everywhere else the state continues to thumb its nose at retirees. Shameful. You are spending $114 BILLION…you’ve got the money…it’s just that retirees aren’t a priority for the Senate President. Not everyone has a 7 figure net worth. If the price tag is too much…then drop the COLA to the first $50,000.

    • Mike Cacioppo

      February 12, 2024 at 1:04 pm

      The $50,000 cap seems reasonable, but I much rather see the COLA based on an index like Social Security. By making it a fixed percent (3%), then it isn’t really a true COLA.

    • Metalliknight

      February 13, 2024 at 10:14 am

      Instead of an ‘all or nothing’ approach’, the legislature should start with restoring the 3% COLA to those who were promised it when they were hired, ie, those who will be prorated on their COLA. Everyone hired after then Governor Scott eliminated the COLA had a choice. Those of us who were already in the system, and planned our retirement for a couple of decades based on this promise, did not have a choice. The Senate needs to do the right thing. This isn’t going away.

  • Andy

    February 4, 2024 at 7:49 am

    Let’s remember it’s the party in charge throwing cold water on a 3 percent cola… take a look at the budget and see how much goes to insurance companies and big business..
    A good number of Democrats are wolves in sheep’s clothing when it comes to the working class. They won’t fight for you in the senate.. because 3/4 of them are millionaires!!!

    • Michael

      February 4, 2024 at 10:47 am

      You do realize that the state of Florida is run by Republicans, right? They have super majorities in both chambers?

    • FloridaPatriot

      February 5, 2024 at 9:28 am

      Nice try…Crazy GOPers always trying to blame Democrats but it is always the GOP failing their constituents.

  • David V Jacobsen

    February 5, 2024 at 4:57 pm

    Sen. Passidomo’s decision to kill SB242 affects 151,000 FRS retirees whose first retirement check is now the same as their last. It means that retired cops, firefighters, teachers, nurses and all the unsung public workers who make government work will not receive benefits they justly deserve and are unable to provide certainty regarding their retirement security. How disappointing.

    • Mike Cacioppo

      February 12, 2024 at 12:52 pm

      If the 151,000 are current retirees, than your statement is false. Current retirees which retired prior to the legislation overhaul over 10 years, still receive a 3% COLA. And in a scenario where you had 20 years credit prior to change and another 10 years after the change, your COLA would calculated as 2%. This bill would would increase the person in the second scenario back to 3%. For those who started in FRS after 2011, put in 10 years, and then retired, your statement is true. Their first check would be the same as their last, and this bill does not address those people.

  • Alex

    February 8, 2024 at 1:28 pm

    I can only hope that Gov. DeSantis will have some influence on the situation. This is from the bottom of page 2 of his budget recommendations: “In addition, the Governor increases the pension amounts to be received by retired members of the FRS by three percent to ensure that former employees also will be better positioned to cope with the recent rise in inflation caused by harmful federal fiscal policies.”
    https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/FY-2024-25-Governor-Budget-FAQs-Final-12.4.23.pdf

  • Mike Cacioppo

    February 12, 2024 at 1:01 pm

    As a disclaimer, I would benefit from this change as my calculated COLA will be 0.85% when I reach 30 years of service. However, I do not know why the state implements a fixed percent in statute. The COLA should be a COLA. Just like Social Security, the legislature should address the COLA percentage based on some index. When the recession happened before the 2011 legislative changes, retirees were still getting a 3% COLA regardless of inflation and probably why changes were made to begin with. But to arbitrarily come up with some fixed percent until someone in the legislature has an itch to scratch, then it should be indexed.

    • Metalliknight

      February 13, 2024 at 10:08 am

      Long term inflation is about 3%. So, a fixed 3% will put a retiree ahead some years, and behind in others like the present inflation environment. Overall, the retiree should keep up with a 3% fixed rate. However, a COLA indexed to SS also makes sense.

  • Matthew C Johnson

    February 12, 2024 at 10:44 pm

    You want either:
    A) Restore LAW AND ORDER , SUPPORT POLICE, and RESTORE A FAIR COLA
    OR
    B) Turn Florida into another SAN FRANCISCO AND NEW YORK CITY

Comments are closed.


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