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.