Jeff Amy with the Associated Press wrote this article about PERS published in Monday’s Clarion-Ledger. There are three key takeaways:
- in a sea change, PERS new leadership will no longer pretend there is not a big problem with PERS’ funding;
- there is a big problem with PERS funding; and
- legislators fully intend to throw former PERS Executive Director Pat Robertson under the bus by citing her history of rosy statements about PERS.
From the article:
Lawmakers also said they felt like former Executive Director Pat Robertson had promised them as late as last year that all was well with the retirement plan, and that they had been promised that no additional contribution increases would be needed after the employer rate went to 15.75 percent in 2013.
Robertson’s refusal to acknowledge the PERS crisis was a disservice to Mississippi taxpayers and set herself up to be the bad guy for a problem she didn’t create. I talked about how Robertson was making a mistake in posts dating back two years.
Don’t get me wrong, lawmakers knew or should have known about the problem before now. But Robertson’s unwise statements allow them to feign ignorance.
House Speaker Philip Gunn nails why PERS is an important issue for everyone:
“When we talk about employer contributions, I don’t think it needs to be forgotten that at the end of the day, the employer is the taxpayer,” said House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Clinton Republican. “So when you’re asking for an increase, you’re asking for the taxpayers to step up and pay more.”
New PERS Executive Director Ray Higgins is taking the right approach in acknowledging and asking lawmakers to address the problem. This is good news. People should not get mad at him. They should thank him for ending the practice of ignoring the elephant in the room.
Now it’s time for the Legislature to start planning the big fix everyone knows has to happen. The PERS pension has to be grandfathered out and state employees put on 401(k) type retirement plans that reduce and cap the State’s obligations to retirees.
Oh yea, and about that 13th check….