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Labor Backed Group Challenges Pew On Pension Reform

Jacksonville's Retirement Reform Task Force is expected to formally agree to work with the Pew Charitable Trusts on pension reform at their meeting on Friday. 

Pew has worked on pension reform proposals with other states and cities for several years. The research organization says its been very successful working with lawmakers to come up with plans that are sustainable and fair to employees.

But, the National Public Pension Coalition, whose membership includes representation from several public sector unions, says Pew's proposal often put retirees benefits at-risk. The group is troubled that Pew would team up with the foundation of former Enron executive John Arnold.

Pew officials made a presentation to the task force on Monday that touted its work in Kentucky. NPPC Executive Director Jordan Marks said that plan will devastate public pensions.

Marks says pension plans get in financial trouble when politicians don't keep them fully funded and use money that is supposed to go into retirement funds elsewhere. He says employees pay into their pensions every week. Jacksonville's unfunded pension liability is over $1.7 billion.

Pew officials say a solution to Jacksonville's pension problems will likely be very different from what was proposed in Kentucky because there is no one-size fits all solution for pension reform.

The task force hopes to have a reform proposal ready to present to Mayor Alvin Brown by January.      

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.