Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pension Tax Is about the Future

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pension Tax Is about the Future

Article excerpt

Jacksonville needs certainty when it comes to its pension crisis.

We need a certain stream of revenue that can't be touched by future politicians.

We need a guarantee that current unaffordable pension plans will be shut down.

We need to know that current employees will have to contribute more to pensions.

Firefighters and police officers need to know that they have a reliable pension that is affordable and competitive.

All of this can happen if Jacksonville voters approve Mayor Lenny Curry's proposed sales tax.

Curry is right when he told the Times-Union editorial board, "It is absolutely the crisis of our time for the city."

It will be as painless as taxes can be, a half-cent sales tax that would take effect after a half-cent sales tax expires for the Better Jacksonville Plan.

Bottom line, residents of Jacksonville won't see an increase in their sales tax.

Curry insists there is no alternative. What he means is the other alternatives are not realistic.

It took all of Curry's political acumen to convince the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to approve this unusual sales tax, a half-cent that will last from 2030 to no later than 2060 or when the pensions are fully funded.

Curry will not support a property tax increase. It puts the burden on a much smaller universe of taxpayers.

A sales tax, in contrast, would tap commuters and visitors. And in Florida, medicine and groceries are exempt.

As for the do-nothing option, Jacksonville has been living with it. Rising pension costs are eating up increases in property tax revenues, stifling the city from making progress.

Pension costs are at $260 million and increasing by $20 million per year.

Curry insists that he will negotiate a more affordable pension plan with unions.

"If the voters vote yes on this, I'm not going to roll over on new plans just because we have a source of revenue. That would be irresponsible. I have committed to the Florida Legislature, the governor and the people of Jacksonville that we will have new plans that represent the market, are sustainable and will not under any circumstances lead us to the destination we have arrived today. …

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