Pension Crisis

Taxpayers on the Hook for Florida's Underfunded Public Pensions

They're $18 billion short

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TALLAHASSEE – Florida's taxpayer-funded public pension plans seem to be a pretty good deal as long as you're not the one footing the bill.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are 303 so-called defined-benefit plans offered to Florida's state and local government employees.

The plans dish out lifetime payments after vested public workers retire. The payments are guaranteed, based on salary and years of service, and are floated by taxpayers public employees kicking in 3 percent from their salaries.

In the event a plan goes underfunded, taxpayers are on the hook.

"Due to a drop in the stock market the last few years and pension holidays taken by the state of Florida, the state Legislature paid hundreds of millions of dollars this year over and beyond what was accrued by this year's public employees," said Robert Weissert, chief research officer at Florida TaxWatch, a Tallahassee-based economic research institute.