Could '13th check" be going away?

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JACKSON, Miss. (WTOK) - Public retirees in Mississippi get a cost of living adjustment added to their benefits every year. It's known as the 13th check. But there's talk on social media that it could be in jeopardy the next legislative session, which starts in January.

"I think there's a tendency that people forget that the wall and halls of the Capitol talk and seem to leak out," said Rep. Tom Miles, D-District 75.

"Rumors are about 90 percent of the way things happen here at the Capitol and they're always based on something that was heard," said
Rep. Jay Hughes, D-District 12.

Miles and Hughes have posted concerns over a rumor that there might be a push next year to do away with the COLA for retirees during the coming session.

"We made a commitment to our state employees," Miles said. "We should honor that commitment. We shouldn't back up on it."

Rep. Jeff Smith tried to calm retirees fears via Facebook. He made note that the COLA check isn't a real cost of living increase, saying that after the first three years it's an automatic 3% increase. He says if there's every going to be a change, it may well be that. Instead of squashing rumors, it fired up some even more.

"It doesn't matter what it's called," said Hughes. "The fact is that employees worked their career at the state for that promise. What I read is this is the foundation for taking away that promise."

Still, it wouldn't be the first time the COLA check has been brought into question. And that's why president of the Mississippi Alliance for Public Employees, Brenda Scott, is holding her breath for the session and asking retirees to pay attention.

"People depend on that pension," Scott said. "They depend on that 13th check. Just to say we're not going to touch your retirement. Now it's time to follow that."

PERS Executive Director Pat Robertson said in a statement that rumors occasionally circulate that COLA will be eliminated or adjusted.
And while the agency can't predict the actions of the legislature, she feels confident that the check is recognized as being important to the retirement security of retirees.