When people normally think of a COLA, they think of a refreshing, bubbly and sweet beverage that goes great with a hamburger and fries. But in the world of public pensions, COLA is only sweet for the retiree. The overly generous and unsustainable COLA (cost of living adjustment) is one of the key factors on why the Public Employees’ Retirement System or PERS continues to struggle financially.
MRPEA – Mississippi Retired Public Employees’ Association Opposes Changes to PERS Despite Struggling Fund
The Mississippi Retired Public Employees’ Association has made its position clear in regard to the state’s defined benefit pension system that serves most state and local employees. The pension system is not to be touched.
For the 2017 fiscal year, employer and member contributions were $1.6 billion, a decrease of $4.7 million. The decrease is attributed to a decline in active members. For the 2017 fiscal year, benefit payments amounted to $2.5 billion, an increase of $110.2 million (4.7 percent) over the 2016 fiscal year. The increase in benefit payments was due to an increase in the number of benefit recipients.
The Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi, better known as PERS, is the state’s ailing defined benefit pension program. Right now, the fund has a $16.6 billion unfunded liability, meaning the contributions of state and municipal employees and income from the plan’s investments aren’t enough to cover present and future benefits for retirees.
It was a move that everyone who has followed the problems of the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) of Mississippi has known was coming for years. PERS recently announced its board of trustees voted to increase the amount of employer contributions from worker salaries for the pension fund to 17.4 percent, starting July 1, 2019.
A recently released report by the Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) Committee of the Mississippi Legislature attempts to address the fiscal issues with Mississippi’s pension system for state, municipal and county employees, but doesn’t go far enough to offer solutions to fix the ailing fund. The report mentions that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi’s fiscal goal of reaching the 80 percent funding ratio by 2042 is not attainable.