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Jacksonville Pension Bill Heads To Governor's Desk

Jacksonville Association of Firefighters

A bill allowing Jacksonville to extend a half-cent sales tax to cover the city’s pension liability got its final green light from the Florida Legislature Wednesday.

Gov. Rick Scott is likely to sign the bipartisan measure.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park), would allow the city to extend the Better Jacksonville tax to the year 2060. It also would require new firefighters and police officers to contribute 10 percent of their pay to 401k-style private retirement plans.

Scott’s close relationship with Mayor Lenny Curry almost makes the bill’s passage a foregone conclusion. Still, Scott told reporters in Jacksonville Monday he isn't committing his signature until he’s had a chance to thoroughly review the legislation.

“I haven't seen the final bill. There’s about 2,000 bills proposed during session. As they make it through the Legislature, if they make it to my desk, I’ll review them then,” Scott said.

If Scott signs the bill, city officials will begin a final pitch to residents, who must agree to the sales-tax extension with a ballot referendum. 

Curry began that push late Wednesday afternoon with a emailed statement calling the bill's passage "a major milestone" for the city. Curry thanked local lawmakers for "their tireless efforts these past several months in examining the challenges pension liabilities pose" to Jacksonville.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.