Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

An End in Sight for City's Pension Crisis

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

An End in Sight for City's Pension Crisis

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

There's nothing better than returning from vacation and having the New Year start off with a bang.

Thank you, Mayor Lenny Curry.

The proposal he presented to the City Council's Finance Committee Monday morning has many hurdles to overcome, but if it is successful, it would be a game changer for Jacksonville.

As had been hinted at for some time, Curry wants to use the half-cent sales tax now committed to paying off Better Jacksonville Plan projects to reduce the $2.6 billion in unfunded liabilities in the city's three public employee pension plans.

Because of those unfunded liabilities - by far the worst in the state - the city's general fund is being depleted, with $153 million going into the Police and Fire Pension Fund alone this budget year.

Curry's plan is being called an extension of the BJP sales tax.

That's not exactly correct. The BJP sales tax is a tax for infrastructure projects that was approved by voters in 2000, and by law it has to end by 2030.

What Curry is proposing would be a different sales tax - some will call it a new tax - that would run for perhaps another 30 years that would be limited to paying off the unfunded pension liabilities.

The political difficulty of calling it a new tax is apparent since Curry promised emphatically that there would be no new taxes or tax increases "on my watch" when he campaigned for mayor.

The proposed solution to the pension crisis that has dogged us for years is too important to get bogged down in semantics.

The fact is we are already paying the half cent, so there would be no additional tax burden. The tax would just last longer.

The infrastructure tax that John Delaney promoted for BJP when he was mayor and that he promised would end no later than 2030 will still do that.

The hurdles ahead include getting buy-in from the Legislature, Gov. …

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