Teachers and other state workers will have to continue contributing 3 percent of their salary to their retirement.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the pension law passed by the Legislature in 2011 will stand.
Now, the state teachers union is blasting lawmakers for imposing what it calls a tax on working families.
The law has been in legal limbo since it went into effect a year and a half ago.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the ruling, Florida Education Association (FEA) President Andy Ford said his group has no further recourse.
“We believe that our arguments were correct and that the justices just didn’t understand what they were doing to a half a million Florida families,” Ford said.
Starting in 1975, public employee pensions were fully funded by the state.
In 2011, the Florida Legislature decided state workers should start contributing 3 percent of their pay into retirement.
Then, a judge in Tallahassee reversed the law because it might interfere with employees’ collective bargaining rights.
Finally, the Florida Supreme Court reinstated the law, finding that the Legislature acted within its authority to change workers’ retirement plans.
A loss for the state would’ve meant up to $2 billion had to be paid back to employees.
Attorney Ron Meyer represents the FEA, which sued to overturn the law.
“A school teacher, a policeman, a state worker,” Meyer said, “all of these public employees can scarcely afford a three percent reduction in their pay.”
If the ruling had gone against the state, the cost to reimburse employees would have been around $2 billion.
“It was all about making up a budget deficit on the back of state workers,” Meyer said.
Now there are calls for the Legislature to approve a hefty pay increase for state workers, who haven’t gotten a raise in six years.
“I’d like to believe that these are good people with good intentions who now have the wherewithal in the state treasury to finally start catching public employee salaries up to where they should be,” Meyer said.
The FEA is still waging a legal battle against a law regarding performance pay for teachers.