Mississippi’s defined benefit pension system had a banner year for its investments in fiscal 2021 and the financial breathing room could be a springboard for real reform that ensures its long-term viability.
The Mississippi Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review issues an annual report on the state’s defined benefit pension system. Normally, the PEER report tends to be moderate in its analysis of PERS, but this one released on May 11 admits that demographics, lower than expected wage inflation by contributing members and lower than expected investment returns are combining to scuttle the plan’s bottom line.
The time for can-kicking is past when it comes to fixing Mississippi’s defined benefit pension system. The Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi could soon ask taxpayers to increase their contribution to the pensions of state and local employees for the second time in two years.
Mississippi’s defined benefit pension fund was hit hard by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi released its annual comprehensive annual financial report on December 15, 2020 for fiscal 2020, which ended June 30 and the plan continues to take on water.
A much-needed bill in the Mississippi Legislature could reduce the amount that the state’s defined benefit pension system pays to outside money managers.
A cost of living adjustment should be related to the real world inflation rate. Mississippi PERS’ COLA at 3 percent is not. In 2005, the plan’s COLA payout to retirees was $211 million or about 18.9 percent of total benefits paid out. This year, it grew to almost $700 million, an increase of 7.6 percent from 2018 ($650 million). The COLA payouts are now 25.4 percent of all benefits paid to retirees.