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TAB Legislative Wish List


  1. Modify the “PBSO Career Service Protection” Act
  2. Repeal the Fire/Rescue Sales Tax provision in FS 212.055
  3. Modify FRS to provide more flexibility
  4. Enact the “Local Government Accountability” bills (HB107/SB224)

Since its inception, TAB has focused on the spending side of the ledger, rather than taxes or other revenue, because the appropriations within the control of local officials are the levers on the “size of government” that we need to maintain the public/private sector balance.

A healthy local economy depends on a government that encourages and supports local business development, not one that creates disincentives through heavy taxation, stifles innovation through heavy regulation, or competes for employees and resources by using taxpayer dollars to overly compensate public employees.

When County Commissioners or others exceed the threshold of reasonableness on spending, we intend to firmly take them to task. There are instances though, where state statutes have tied the hands of local officials who are trying to do the right things. Many of these laws were passed at the urging of local special interests, such as the public employee unions, by legislators who they supported.

The County Government has a Legislative Affairs Department whose job it is to lobby for new laws and changes to existing laws that affect Palm Beach County. Each year they publish a “Legislative Issues” document that lays out the agenda.

In this year’s version, many of the items concern obtaining state funds for local projects. While many of these projects are desirable, we should not be treating state grants as “free money”. The test of any spending should be whether it is for an accepted public purpose, and whether it is affordable in the current economic climate. We also find items that support renewable energy standards, drilling bans and “climate change” legislation to be misguided, as are more subsidies for rail projects such as providing Amtrak protections on the FEC Corridor similar to the CSX indemnification for Sunrail.

That said, we find several items in this year’s agenda that we wholeheartedly support, and two that we oppose. Specifically:

FRS Reform

We STRONGLY SUPPORT the county’s proposed FRS reforms (Page 21), which:

  • Require FRS participants to contribute to the plan
  • Index by COLA rather than fixed increases
  • Lengthen the re-hire time after DROP participation
  • Offer incentives to voluntary moves to “investment option” plans (eg. 401K)
  • Cap the number of overtime hours used in calculating “Average Final Compensation”

However, we feel the list of things to avoid are too limiting – all things should be on the table, including altering benefits for current employees (but not retirees), at least for future accruals, ending defined benefit plans for new hires and raising the retirement age.

Career Service Protection Amendments

We STRONGLY SUPPORT the county proposal to revise the “Palm Beach County Sheriff Career Service Legislation” (page 37). HB601 at the time of passage in 2004, this legislation essentially prevents any reduction in pay or benefits to most employees of PBSO, even during collective bargaining. It states:


“no existing employer-paid benefits and emoluments to all certified and non-certified employees of the Sheriff with regard to the pay plan, longevity plan, tuition-reimbursement plan, career-path program, health insurance, life insurance, and disability benefits may be reduced except in the case of exigent operation necessity.”

As we found out in the last round of budget talks, there can be no “exigent operation necessity” until the county has exhausted all its reserves and is essentially out of money. This means that neither the County Commission nor the Sheriff himself may reduce a benefit currently received or promised in the future, including the very lucrative PBSO longevity raise plan.

Fire/Rescue Surtax

We STRONGLY OPPOSE the county’s proposal to amend the changes brought by the “Emergency Fire Rescue Services and Facilities Surtax Act” (Page 32) so as to make it more workable and permit the return of the sales tax surcharge ballot initiative in 2012. TAB urges repeal of this act. Fire/Rescue should be required to justify its budget every year, just like any county agency, and not be funded by sales tax revenue with no oversight.

Floors for Library Grants

We also OPPOSE the county proposal to set funding floors for state library grants (page 33). All programs should be subject to adjustment in economic downturns. Mandatory funding floors, much like the provisions of the Career Service Protection Act, should not be enacted to prevent state or local governments from acting during times of fiscal challenge. It is hypocritical for the county to want to amend one and enact the other.

Local Government Accountability

Not on the county agenda, but on the TAB radar is a set of bills currently in committee (HB107/SB224 – Local Government Accountablility) that specifies (among other things) the amount of detail the Sheriff would be required to include in his annual budget proposal, specifically:

The sheriff shall furnish to the board of county commissioners or the budget commission, if there is a budget commission in the county, all relevant and pertinent information concerning expenditures made in previous fiscal years and to the proposed expenditures which the board or commission deems necessary, including expenditures at the subobject code level in accordance with the uniform accounting system prescribed by the Department of Financial Services. The board or commission may not amend, modify, increase, or reduce any expenditure at the subobject code level. The board or commission may not require confidential information concerning details of investigations which is exempt from the provisions of s.119.07(1).

Since transparency of the Sheriff’s budget is a Palm Beach County issue, we STRONGLY SUPPORT passage of these bills.

Comments

2 Responses to “TAB Legislative Wish List”
  1. Howdy,as a Palm Beach County resident and a traveler who has been around the world,i can tell you we have the best county goverment i have ever seen,the best parks,roads,water utilites,and social services.I have looked at the wages of the general county employees and there not out line.Whats out of line is PBSO and FIRE RESCUE, PBSO is out of line for not putting there full budget on line and Fire Rescue and PBSO need to change how they operate.I would hate to see this beautiful county become like some third world countrys i have been in

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  1. […] we published our “Legislative Wish List” last month, the outlook for the coming session has come into focus. Two of the 4 items […]



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