Florida teachers, 1. Governor Scott, 0.March 7, 2012: 6:22 PM ET
Florida teachers and other public workers scored a big win this week in the state budget battle.
A Circuit Court judge ruled that the state must return the 3% of employees' salaries that it started deducting last year as contributions toward their retirement benefits....with interest. Judge Jackie Fulford also voided the state law that eliminated annual cost-of-living-adjustments. Both changes violate the state constitution, Fulford wrote in her decision.
We're not talking chump change here. The state would have to refund hundreds of millions of dollars -- at least -- to the 655,000 members of the Florida Retirement System.
The new contribution requirement is one of several cost-saving measures contained in the fiscal 2012 budget that Governor Rick Scott signed into law last year. The governor and state lawmakers, who were wrestling with a $3.6 billion budget deficit, have said that public employees should help finance their own retirements. Until the change in the law, employees paid nothing.
The Florida Education Association hailed the ruling, saying the constitution "requires the state to live up to its promises, including those made to the public workers by the state itself."
State officials, however, wasted no time in filing an appeal. Scott blasted the court, saying that the decision leaves "working Floridians with 100 percent of the tab" for public employees' retirement benefits.
The ruling comes at a time when state officials are finalizing their fiscal 2013 budget, which contains additional spending cuts.