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Mississippians Voice PERS Opinions To Study Commission

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 14 Sep 2011 05:53pm | comments
Commission chair George Schloegel (right)

A 12 member commission is studying the way the state funds its retirement system for public employees. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports dozens of Mississippians crowded into the Capitol as the commission held it first public hearing.

It was standing room only at a hearing room in the Capitol in Jackson for Mississippians wanting to voice their opinion to a commission studying the Public Employees Retirement System.

Governor Haley Barbour has set up the commission to look at the retirement system and recommend changes to shore up its long term stability.

Anita Collins is a retired teacher; she says the potential for changes has many retirees nervous about their future income.

"Naturally we are. We are all concerned. Because you don't know exactly what will happen with it. (Reporter: What do you think is going to happen?) I hope it will stay the way it is because it is a good program and it is well administered," Collins said

The majority of the speakers at the public hearing lobbied members of the study committee to keep the program as it is, calling it one of the main draws to bring employees into public service.

But 84-year old Troy Holiday, who is also a retired teacher, says he would support changes to the program if it improves the stability.

"We got a good retirement system and we need to keep it that way. I know we are having trouble in certain areas of the country on retirement system. And this is a good way to get ahead of the game to fix it now before we get into trouble," Holiday said.

PERS is now a 20-billion dollar system that pays out nearly 2-billion dollars a year to state retirees and the committee's chair Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel says the committee is going to examine every aspect of the program.

"From what I have studied in the short time I have been on this commission, I think Mississippi has an excellent system. I think, based on a few things that I have seen, some adjustments in certain parts, can make a great difference in maintaining stability in a better role than it is in today," Schloegel said.

That could include changes to current retiree benefits such as the popular 13th check, which is an annual check that pays a cost of living adjustment as a lump sum instead of spread out across 12 checks.

The committee will make its recommendations to the legislation in mid-November.

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Commission chair George Schloegel (right)


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