Miami Commission Looks To Hack Salaries and Pensions Today As Unions Promise A Fight

Like a blackjack fiend down to his last, filthy dollar bill at 3 a.m., the City of Miami has gone through most of the stages of grief over its budget disaster. First came denial (illegally shuffling money around to hide the problems), then anger (electing firebrand Tomas Regalado), desperate bargaining (with police and fire unions) and depression (OK, that part's for the schmucks like us who have to live here.)

Today, there's no more hiding from the $105 million budget hole. The City Commission's response: at an emergency meeting this afternoon they're going to try to hack the living hell out of employee salaries and pensions. The unions won't take it sitting down.

"They're going to be destroying employees' lives and making insurance unaffordable," Charlie Cox, president of the city's general services employee union, tells Riptide.

Cox, for one, isn't going to stand for the cuts. He announced this morning that he's retiring after 23 years running the union once negotiations on a new contract are finally finished.

Many other city employees aren't going to be so lucky. Miami's pension payouts have risen to become 20 percent of the whole city budget, and Regalado tells the Herald that something has to give.

"Hopefully there will be a consensus that we have to take measures that nobody likes,'' Regalado says.

Much of that cash goes to firefighters, some of whom earn close to $300,000 in combined salary and benefits, according to the Herald. Expect to see police and firefighters out in force at Dinner Key this afternoon, protesting the commission's plans to slash their budgets.

But Cox says the city has gotten away with villifying unions for Miami's budget woes, when bad investments -- like, say, a certain ridiculous baseball stadium deal you may have heard about -- and manager salaries are more to blame.

"They've decided to take it out on their employees because the Herald has gotten away with blaming everything on the unions," Cox says.

Either way, barring a last-minute union lawsuit to stop the commission's vote, cuts look imminent.

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