Pension tax ballot wording simplified

Jason Rantala reports. 8/16/2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—While there are critics of the pension tax, there are also critics who say the wording of the tax on ballots is too convoluted.

Here's the half-cent pension sales tax plan, as written on the 2016 primary referendum:

Permanently closing up to three of the city's underfunded defined benefit retirement plans, increasing the employee contribution for those plans to a minimum of 10 percent and ending the Better Jacksonville half-cent sales tax are all required to adopt a half-cent sales tax solely dedicated to reducing the city's unfunded pension liability. Shall such pension liability sales tax, which ends upon elimination of the unfunded pension liability or in 30 years maximum, be adopted?

"This is written by someone who doesn't want the people to understand it, or it's written to be lawyer speak," said David MacKinnon, the assistant director of the writing program at the University of North Florida.

After some adjustments, MacKinnon broke the large block of text into a question with bullet points:

"Question: Shall we adopt such a pension liability sales tax that will cease once the unfounded pension liability is reduced to $0 or in 30 years maximum?

If we adopt this half-cent sales tax solely dedicated to reducing the city's unfunded pension liability, then we also elect to:

1. Close permanently up to three of the city's underfunded defined benefit retirement plans.

2. Require employees to contribute at least 10 percent to those plans.

3. End the Better Jacksonville half-cent sales tax."

Legalese, as it's known, is common in everyday mailers, legal documents, and in this case, amendments.

People can search online for simplified versions of information written in legalese.

The problem in this case is that the simplified version does not make it in front of voters at the polls, MacKinnon said.


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