PERS Commission Makes Recommendations

By: Mike McDaniel Email
By: Mike McDaniel Email

The fate of the Mississippi Public Employees' Retirement System, or PERS, is now laid out in a 40-page report. And in it are recommendations of change to a system Gov. Haley Barbour says is under funded by $12 billion.

"If we didn't use any money for anything in state government, it would take us two and half years to get PERS to the funding level that is recommended," said Barbour.

To help get the system on better footing, part of the recommendations include freezing the three percent increase retirees currently receive every year for three years. Any new retirees would also be subject to the three-year hold out.

Recommendations also include adjustments to when retirements may be drawn, as well as calling into question whether exclusive benefits to lawmakers, known as SLRP should keep being paid.

"The system is going in the wrong direction," said Barbour.

Barbour formed a commission back in August, after having concerns over the system's ability to sustain itself long-term.

The governor says the system pays out more benefits than it's structurally set up for, so the group was charged with examining the system's financial, management and investment structures.

Led by Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel, the commission's proposed changes are a way to avoid long-term problems.

"For every dollar that we have promised to pay out, we only have 62 and a half cents to make that payment," said Schloegel.

Schloegel says the main reason for the system's financial state is because of the legislature's decision a few years ago to increase benefits without paying for them.

Through several public hearings and many concerns over reduced benefits Schloegel says the recommendations need to be highly considered and were made with taxpayers in mind.

"We're very, very cognizant of their concerns for any changes and we've been attentive to those concerns," Schloegel said.

With about 80,000 retirees cashing in on the system and about 167,000 active members, Barbour says preserving it for future generations is a responsibility on state government.

"The employees and the retirees deserve it the most, because they're the people who are basing their future assumptions that this money is going to be there," Barbour said.

The commission itself can only make recommendations to the system. Any changes would have to be approved by the new legislature, which convenes in January.

Click the link below to read the PERS Commission's Report.

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