- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he expects his proposed overhaul of the state’s pension system will be met with protests similar to the ongoing labor battle in Madison, Wis.

But Mr. Scott, a Republican, added that his state’s employees are compensated too well and that “it’s not fair to taxpayers” to continue the practice.

“It can’t be that if you work in government, you get paid better or you get better fringe benefits than if you work in the private sector,” he said on the “America’s Morning News” radio program, news partner with The Washington Times.

When asked whether he thought angry public workers soon will be descending on the capital of Tallahassee to protest his plan to make state employees pay 5 percent of their salaries into their retirement accounts, he said, “I’d be shocked if they’re not.”

The governor, a former health care executive elected in November, also wants to end a program that encourages older government employees to retire early by allowing them to draw a pension check and return to work for the state.

But he said he was ready for a debate — and the possible rallies outside the state Capitol — because “this is absolutely a decision that needs to be had — what is fair to taxpayers, what is fair to the people who work in government.”

Mr. Scott said his state government, which is heavily in debt, already has enough money to function well.

“Everyone knows we have enough money in our state budget, and every state has enough in their state budget — they just won’t prioritize, they won’t go look at every agency and say, ‘How are we spending this money?’” Mr. Scott said.

He added that by lowering business taxes he wants “to make it impossible for anybody to think about opening a business in any other state than Florida.”

The governor a day earlier said that — unlike Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker — he doesn’t want to curtail collective bargaining rights for state employees.

“My belief is, as long as people know what they’re doing, collective bargaining is fine,” Mr. Scott said Tuesday during an interview with Tallahassee radio station WFLA-FM.

• Sean Lengell can be reached at slengell@washingtontimes.com.

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