The Florida Institute of Governement and The James Madison Institute recently asked Florida city and county managers, “What problem does your jurisdiction encounter most when dealing with state agencies?” More that 70 percent cited unfunded mandates.
According to Florida Statutes, a mandate is any state action that imposes a cost upon local government by: (1) requiring local government to provide a service or facility without commensurate funding; (2) reducing local government fiscal powers without a corresponding reduction in responsibilities; or (3) requiring a local government to perform an activity that directly or indirectly proves costly.
In 1990, citizens added Sections 18(a) and 18(b) to Article VII of the state constitution. The amendment states that local governments may reject laws that are in effect unfunded mandates unless certain requirements are met. It also limits the power of the legislature to reduce local governments’ revenue-generating authority and the level of revenues shared with the state.
House Bill 3075, which increaases minimum benefits for firefighter and police officer pension funds, was passed by the legislature in 1998. It rewrites chapters 175 and 185 of the Florida Statutes and significantly changes the requirements that municipalities and special districts must meet to administer police officer and firefighter pension plans.
HB 3075 require an increase in the benefits of local pension plans by provides no assurance current revenue sources will be able to pay for this increase.
Most cities with police and fire pension plans have negotiated special agreements with their departments depending on local preferences and resources. But HB 3075 puts a “floor” under benefits and ignores existing “ceilings.”
If reintroduced, enacted, and implemented, HB 3075 would use local dollars to pay for benefits mandated by the state. This would allow Florida’s police and firefighters’ unions to do an end run on the city commissions and local citizenries.
Governor Chiles vetoed HB 3075 but leaders in the legislature have said they may consider it again in 1999, when it will be no less an unfunded mandate.