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PERS Study: Following The Reaction

December 14, 2011

Yesterday, Haley Barbour’s office announced that the PERS study commission will release their recommendations today. There was a ton of talk of PERS during the elections, it was certainly a hot button issue and Democrats felt like it was a winning issue for them. Considering the results of the elections, we can debate the merits of that, but it will remain a major political issue, and a tricky one.

Because of that, I’m interested in seeing how the parties respond and proceed.

The GOP obviously has the most to lose on this issue, as with any major issue at this point. That is what happens when you are the majority and control all levels of state government. Regardless of what Democrats and their allies were saying all year long, Republican candidates pretty much vowed to protect all benefits for those in the system, including the much discussed “13th check.” Specifically, the House Republican Caucus signed a pledge and there was also the group of Republican Senators who, while not speaking for the leadership, made their own promises.

Phil Bryant also has a lot to lose here as he gets set to begin his first term as governor in a few weeks. Be interesting to see what he says about the study. Haley Barbour was one of the best at handling difficult issues, and as we have seen has remained popular. Those are big shoes to fill for Bryant, but it is possible to navigate through muddy waters.

As for the Democrats, they have the easiest job in politics: Serving in the minority with no control. It may make your life miserable, especially when you’re use to power, but the strategy is fairly easy- attack the majority. It’s worked very well for both parties in DC over the years. I’d expect it not just with PERS but other difficult issues like education spending and the budget.

Of course to communicate you have to be organized. I imagine the state party, which is going to be their main communications mouthpiece now, is in some transition mode as they figure out who will be the next chairman and executive director. Because of this, communications, which were never anything to write home about, will probably be even harder to come by. But I’m sure some individual Democrats; Hob Bryan in particular, will have something to say. Bryan, as you may have read, has been out talking about the recommendations before they’ve been released but all he appears to be doing is making sure Tate Reeves doesn’t give him a chair in the Senate as Bryant did.

And then there were Democratic interest groups like the anonymous Honor Your Promise website who was behind those sometimes comical templated emails we spent a good bit of time on during the election. Their website is still around and they pledge “to keep us informed as events unfold.” We shall see.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. stogtvCharie Stogner permalink
    December 14, 2011 7:56 am

    What a conundrum for the GOP. We now have a party in control of both Mississippi houses, one ‘birthed’ in the late ’50’s by the likes of Wirt Yerger, Hattiesburg Coca-Cola executive Dick Thompson and others who truly believed in ‘fiscal conservationism’ and who struggled in very adverse conditions to create a base that today has resulted in electing GOP legislators who while seeking votes to be elected seemed to make a promise that may not be realistic in the state budget at this time.
    Not to say the state retirees are not entitled to receive retirement income but with so many non-government workers out of work and small business owners having to take cuts in their income, these retirees should be willing to sacrifice like the so many other Mississippians and accept what the state can only realistically afford to provide.
    If we have to re-elect legislators this year based on new districts, it will be interesting to see what their actions toward ‘fiscal’ conservationism are this coming session.

  2. Jean Crosswhite permalink
    December 14, 2011 11:42 am

    Sacrifice and Accept what the state can only realistically afford to provide to them? These retirees worked long and hard for their retirement and absolutely deserve what is rightfully theirs. Those already in the system and vested should also be entitled to their retirement as it was promised to them by their commitment to state service. If changes are to be made, these changes should be for new hires and those not fully vested, which I believe now requires 8 years as of July 2007. Before making these retirees accept only what the state can offer them,
    why not re-evaluate all of these “fat” salaries that so many of the top administrators and assistants to the administrators and those who have jobs which have been created/crafted especially for them. Also, how about putting an end to the supplemental retirement these legislators receive before breaking the promises to those who have served their time….

    • Linda P. permalink
      December 15, 2011 8:53 am

      I fully agree with Jean Crosswhite’s statement.

  3. Kingfish permalink
    December 15, 2011 10:06 am

    Well Linda, PERS is spending half a billion dollars more in benefits payments than it takes in contributions. It has had such a deficit for ten years now. What do you propose to do about that?

  4. Jean Crosswhite permalink
    December 15, 2011 2:09 pm

    Well, that’s not exactly our fault. It has had this deficit for 10 years now? Well then, obviously, if this was known to the powers that be (as I’m sure it was) then WHY in the world did those charged with managing our retirement not say something before now AND ACT on it? Why has it taken Barbour this long to bring this matter to the forefront and attempt to make recommendations so late in his second and final term as governor? As far as I can tell, it’s not the state workers fault and why should we be burdened with this as all we have been doing is working and “our” retirement is taken out of our check automatically? I do understand that a problem exists, but I think ALL other options should be considered before breaking these promises to the retirees who worked all of their life for their retirement and the current, vested employees who have made the commitment to remain with the system in exchange for receiving their full and promised retirement.

    • Kingfish permalink
      December 16, 2011 8:06 am

      Barbour tried several times. got a bill through the Senate this year and McCoy tabled it.

      I’m just curious. Have you actually read any of the PERS audits or actuarial reports?

  5. I want to ask permalink
    December 15, 2011 8:32 pm

    I’m thinking Jean voted for hte incumbent president

  6. TupeloTony permalink
    December 16, 2011 5:36 am

    We can not sustain the current system. Those who support it generally are putting their head in the sand or want to pass the bill to our children and grandchildren. As I understand it, persons can retire with full benefits after 25 – 30 (forget the number off hand) years of service. That means someone work starts work at 22 can retire with full benefits for the rest of their life at age 47 -52. So a person who lives to be 90 and beyond (happens all the time now) could draw 30-40 years of retirement. That is more than they worked. I say at a minimum they need to require no benefits are paid until age 65 (prefer 70 for this and social security). People are free to retire sooner, but my tax dollars will not fund their extended retirement. Also, if there is a better retirement plan for our part time legislators, that needs to be repealed. In my opinion our part time legislators should have part time benefits, which usually does NOT mean retirement.

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