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Democrats Ready to Challenge Retirement System Cuts

By Daniel Cherry | Published 15 Jan 2013 06:16pm | comments
Democrats in the Mississippi legislature say they'll fight potential changes to the Public Employees Retirement System. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports, legislation is expected that could cut benefits to state retirees.
 
Legislative Democrats are furious over a bill that would freeze cost of living increases for retired state employees. The bill, which has not yet been filed, is sponsored by Nancy Collins, a Republican from Tupelo. 
 
"Nancy Collins has jumped into a hornet's nest. That's what she's done."
 
That's Steve Holland, a longtime Democratic Representative from Plantersville.
 
"She wants dialogue, she can get it. The members of the House say, 'No! No!' to changing any of the benefits that these people right here have accrued through their public service career."
 
Along with a three-year freeze on the annual three percent cost of living increases, also known as the 13th check, the bill would add seven members to the PERS board. Democratic Senator Kenny Wayne Jones of Canton, says freezing the 13th check is the wrong thing to do.
 
"I don't think it's fair that you give us 25-30 years and then we come back and renege on our promises on what we're supposed to do for you. This bill changes the entire makeup of what we've been doing."
 
Some critics say PERS is under-funded and has to cut back in order to be solvent. Republican Representative Toby Barker says changes are needed, but he's not looking to cut benefits to current retirees.
 
"I don't think the state should change the rules in the middle of the game for current employees and current retirees. We made a commitment, and, in general, if we're going to make changes, I'd prefer those changes come with new hires."
 
A representative from Senator Nancy Collin's office said Collins wouldn't have time for a comment until next week.

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