Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Greenwood Commonwealth. May 3, 2024.

Editorial: PERS Is Losing Some Power

The board that oversees the Mississippi Public Employees’ Retirement System went to the well one too many times.

Assuming Gov. Tate Reeves signs the legislation, the PERS board will lose its authority to increase the rate that employers (that is, the taxpayers) kick in to fund the overly generous pension program for state, county, city and public education employees.

Instead, going forward, the PERS board will only be able to recommend an increase in the employer rate. The Legislature will decide whether to adopt it.

The same legislation that strips the PERS board of some of its power already exercises that prerogative. PERS had planned to implement a 5-percentage-point increase in the employer rate over the next three years, but the Legislature cut it in half and extended the phase-in period to five years.

The actuaries are almost certain to say that’s not enough to deal with PERS’ $25 billion unfunded liability. They are probably right if the system is not reformed in other ways.

Among the work to be done, the Legislature needs to reduce the benefits for new employees, and it needs retirees to share in the burden, such as by paying state taxes on their benefits.

Otherwise, lawmakers will find themselves in the same pattern as the PERS board, continually hitting up the taxpayers for more money.