Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dear Republicans: Give the Democrats what they want on PERS.

 Collection of all posts on PERS

The Democrats announced at a press conference yesterday they are opposed to any changes in the Public Employees Retirement System. The Clarion-Ledger reported:

We are 100 percent united in opposition to any changes in retirement benefits for our state employees,” said state Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory.

With a large poster at their side that said “PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) affects all state employees and their families,” Democratic lawmakers at a rally at the Capitol said changes would be unfair to workers recruited using the current retirement plan

These statements should come as no surprise as their former executive director gave us a preview of what road they would take in a column last week. Clarion-Ledger assignment and "community engagement" editor Sam Hall threatened lawsuits, fire, and other forms of brimstone if the Republicans make any changes to PERS. Mr. Hall opined in a poorly-written column:

"Possibly leading to lawsuits, the proposed bill:

• Freezes the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for three years.
• Ties COLA to the Consumer Price Index, not to exceed 3 percent.
• Employees retiring after July 1, 2013, would not receive any COLA payments until they reached 62 years of age.
• Freezes any COLA payments if the PERS fund fell below 70 percent funded.
• Raises the retirement age to 62 as of July 1, 2013, but would not change the 30 years of service.
• Limits retirement pay for anyone with 30 years of service who retires before age 55.....

This bill is troubling in that it would open up Mississippi to massive lawsuits the state is likely to lose, no matter what kind of judge-shopping the bill’s author has attempted to legislate. You simply cannot enter into a contract with someone and then change the terms of that contract without their consent

Fairly modest changes but it doesn't matter if the system goes bankrupt as we can't change anything. Mr. Hall continues:

"Additionally, freezing COLA payments when the fund is below 70 percent funded would penalize retirees for market conditions outside their control."

Penalizes? I can hear it now. "Its not their fault? Why should they suffer?" Well Sam, since you are as clueless about finance as you are about politics, I'll spell it out for you. Either you have the money or you don't. If the markets falter, PERS has to withdraw more money out of assets to meet its obligations and the funding level drops even more. The COLA, which is not a true cost of living adjustment but a mandatory pay raise every year, just makes it worse.   However, all the retirees shriek is "don't change anything!!!

Well, my Democrat friends and retirees, allow me to inject some reality. Here is the true picture of PERS. Let us start with the funding level. For those of you with ADD or graduates of Nancy Loome schools, here are some nice, pretty charts:

Hob Bryan tells you to ignore that chart as he says funding levels are just "assumptions" and we can "change assumptions". Um, yeah. Why even use assumptions? One thing you should notice about that funding level is it keeps going down even when PERS earns rates of returns over 10%. You won't read about that over at Cottonchicken as he sold his integrity a long time ago. There is a reason why PERS becomes less funded even when it does well in the markets:

Seems to be going in the wrong direction, doesn't it? The retirees reading this post will probably call me a liar or ignore these facts. No surprise there as this is probably the first time they've ever been exposed to the truth. The deficit will continue to get worse as this chart shows the growth in retirees:

As that number grows, the payments will grow. As the payments grow, the deficit will continue to worsen and PERS will become less funded unless the legislature bails it out. What does the Kingfish think the legislature should do about PERS? The Kingfish thinks the Republicans should give the Democrats exactly what they want and do absolutely nothing. Follow the PEER recommendations of doing almost nothing in regards to making changes at PERS.

Let the funding level keep dropping. That is what these Democrats and retirees want: nothing, so give it to them. When the funding level keeps dropping to the point where they are looking at nothing, too damn bad for them. They want to ride the train, let them ride it all the way to the big train wreck. Think you hear gnashing of teeth now? Wait until that happens and they have no choice but to make drastic changes. No court is going to recognize these "contracts" as suicide pacts. Dear Republicans, when the people you are trying to help don't want help, then don't help them. The markets for PERS are up around 5% and the new employer contributions yielded some more money for PERS but I predict the funding level will decrease again when the annual report is issued in October. However, let Sam Hall, Hob Bryan, and the retirees ignore reality and give them what they want.

Post on 2012 annual report

PERS Facts:

 3-year rolling average: 13.23% (Funding level still fell.
5-year rolling average: 2.42%
10-year rolling average:  6.96

Rates of return since 2000:
2000: 8.4%
2001: -7.1%
2002: -6.6%

2003: 3.5%
2004: 14.6%
2005: 9.8%
2006: 10.7%
2007: 18.9%
2008: -8.2%
2009: -19.4%

2010: 14.1%

2011: 25%
2012: 0.6% 

One little idea: Instead of allowing PEER to examine PERS, why doesn't the Legislature order the Securities Division at the Secretary of State to audit and examine PERS since it has true examiners with investments backgrounds on its staff.


Anonymous said...

The point you've made, KF, is that PERS investments were not mismanaged but rather that the benefits paid out were too large given the monies paid in.

The answer is to either increase monies paid in by new employees and/or to decrease the future benefits to new employees based on a more realisitc view of Wall Street investment performance. And, the benefits paid to those currently in the system would decrease based on future monies paid in but receive the same promised return on monies already paid in.

I do have an issue with " changing the contract". The State made the mistake, not the people who paid in and planned their retirement based on their contract.

Of course, I don't think Wall Street should get to play " fast and loose" with pension investments. We should return to a time when pension fund managers were not regarded as " muppets" but were given a more honest risk assessment and a prospectus wasn't a sales promo but was based on financial reality.

Anonymous said...

Good post.

I'm a Democrat. It's not politics. It's math. I don't understand how the Democrats can ignore math.

PERS has to be fixed. Saying you want to keep benefits where they are without offering a plan for fixing the system is sticking your head in the sand. The Dems are not doing state workers any favors if they don't help fix the problem.

Republican + Democrat = RINO aka Mike Chaney said...

No court is going to recognize these "contracts" as suicide pacts.

Amen Brother.

Anonymous said...

Well said and documented Kingfish

Anonymous said...

1) we should change the retirement system for all future employees from being a defined benefit plan. Make it like 99$ of the rest of the non-public employee world, and make it a defined contribution plan.

2) the "contract" was expanded by the legislature in 1999; what was given can be taken away. Do away with, or modify, that change to bring the benefits back into reality.

3) freeze the COLA, for at least the next three years. The COLA has far exceeded costs providing a continuing raise to retired workers - quite a benefit.

Anonymous said...

If you want to incur extraordinary expenses for the state, pass this PERS bill. Public employees, including myself, will sue for breach of contract. And the State will lose.

Moreover, since all of the judges are state employees, they will all have to recuse. The Supreme Court will have to appoint judges from outside the State to hear the case (at taxpayer expense). The AG will also have a conflict, so special would also have to brought in (at taxpayer expense).

This bill is not "the PERS Reformation Bill of 2013." It is the "Full Employment for Lawyers of 2013 Act."

Kingfish said...

Goodie. I want you to take this stand and do this. You think I'm being a smartass? Nope. I'm dead serious.

I'm more than happy to let you learn the hard way.

Kingfish said...

My comment about poorly written is this. In the beginning, Mr. Hall makes it appear all PERS suits will appear in Jeff Weill's court. He then waxes on about how Mr. Weill is conservative. Then he gets around to pointing out the obvious, which is if the suit is filed in Hinds, then it goes into rotation among ALL the circuit judges. It is not assigned to Weill's court although ironically if Green had had her way on her docket reassignments, Mr. Weill would have had a much better chance of getting his hands on the case. You tell me:

It appears those pushing the bill anticipate the state being sued, which is why among all the structural changes to PERS is language that would require any lawsuits dealing with the retirement system to be filed in the First Judicial District of Hinds County. That’s the court of Judge Jeff Weill, largely viewed as the only “reliably conservative” judge in the county.

Current state law restricts lawsuits dealing with PERS to Hinds County courts, which is common. Hinds County is the home to the capital city, and thus it makes sense that lawsuits would be filed there for convenience. Over the years, however, the makeup of the Hinds County Circuit Court has changed. While judges run in non-partisan races, most of the sitting judges are viewed as ideologically Democratic. Thus, it seems some lawmakers will want to make judge shopping a legal practice through state law.

KaptKangaroo said...

I wonder what happens if PERS defaults.

Anonymous said...

Good post and documentation, KF

"why doesn't the Legislature order the Securities Division at the Secretary of State to audit and examine PERS since it has true examiners with investments backgrounds on its staff." good idea, hadn't thought about that.

January 16, 2013 at 10:21 AM, the "Full Employment for Lawyers of 2013 Act" statement---believe legislator said that in 2012 session. Interesting...

Anonymous said...

I hate to sound completely oblivious about this topic, as I have a large sum of money sitting in my PERS account, even though I no longer work for the state. But can someone tell me if any of this back and forth stuff about PERS should actively concern me or cause me to withdraw my money long before I was originally planning to?

When I left the state, I was told by numerous sources NOT to touch that money because "you never know". So there it sits, doing practically nothing.

Would hate to go to withdraw it years from now and find out that something was changed and that it wasn't worth what it actually said it was.

KaptKangaroo said...

There is a thought, what if there was a run on the fund to withdraw early, despite penalties, if the retirees were in fear of default.

Shadowfax said...

Kingfish: Interesting analogy as to any suit winding up in a particular court. Your tunnel vision, however, seems to assume the judge sitting at the bench will determine the fate of a lawsuit. Was that your intention? Did you forget that a jury will be in the mix somewhere or does your political bent simply make you think if the judge is a democrat, the outcome will be unfair?

It's also not impossible to forecast that the court of final jurisdiction will be a federal one, eventually, since much of the funding of agencies (and payments into PERS by agencies) comes by way of the federal money stream. Who knows? But if you were as smart as Crowley, you'd have a law office. Kangaroo could still tote your water though.

Kingfish said...

Shadow, when you first popped up on this website a couple of years ago, it was when I started covering PERS. Your posts on the subject tend to be defensive of PERS and rather long. As I suspected, you are a PERS plant.

Having said that, I do not assume for one bit which Judge will get the case if a suit is filed. Once again, you did not read or more likely, you are putting words in my mouth. Even if I wanted it to wind up in Weill's court, there is only a 25% it would do so and given the Senior Judge is Tomie Green, I'm not so sure she wouldn't try to grab the case for herself as she has done in other cases. Pardon me.

Anonymous said...

@1:03 PM
In my opinion-ask a CPA to give you a review of your account. I would never base any financial decision on anything except what specifically applies to you/your family. A CPA, who is working FOR YOU, would be the one person who I would trust.

KaptKangaroo said...

Shadow, I've asked several times regarding your interest in PERS. It doesn't take a marsupial to figure that out.

While you espouse and pontificate on PERS, know, your words fall short of any contribution to a solution to the issue of PERS future funding, sustainability and potential for default.

Your interest, and the fact you have never disavowed or admitted receiving any benefit under PERS goes a long way to support KF's assertion.

I'm pretty independent of KF on this issue, I discuss it with him, but please know I speak from experience on the issue of "pensions" and by comparison in this instance a "pension" of the state called PERS.

You've always asserted you are older in age, given your boasting of owning a number of businesses, sitting on boards, et al.

Do you provide a "pension" in any of your businesses? If yes, how many employees on a percentage basis receive it. If not, why?

Do you offer a 401k to your employees?

Do you offer a match against employees contributions to ANY retirement?

I am curious. I am going to assume you will dismiss the questions under guise of personal attack and completely miss out on having any credibility with the community at large here at JJ.

I can see it now, "I owe no one any explanation."

Funny you only show up and play serious when PERS is at issue. It is unfortunate that you never answer the questions, nor do you really read - unless of course it relates to the Senate proposal on PERS which you posted here on this site recently.

Anonymous said...

Come on Kapt. SFax does play serious on other issues.

Shadowfax said...

It was your analysis that any suit would wind up in Weill's court, not mine. You own it.

I'm nobody's 'plant', whatever that means.

It's none of your damned business or Kangaroot's business what my income sources are, whether I contribute to a 401(k), whether I'm retired or working. Insinuating that anybody's credibility on an issue is dependent on answering questions directed by some goob is ridiculous. You're both foolish to suggest that in order for a poster on this blog to be taken seriously, he/she must submit a resume to you.

My opinions regarding PERS are as valid as the next guy's. Like most people, I know state employees, present and retired. I've assisted many in their attempts to negotiate paperwork minefields.

If I provide inaccurate information regarding PERS, call me out and we'll discuss. If I call someone out for foolishly stating the program deserves to crash into the rocks, that's my right to do. You two look mighty foolish playfully skipping along the bank hoping the ship will sink while attempting to hang the problems on state employees and democrats. I doubt you understand just how foolish you do look.

This is largely a blog of opinions. It just so happens that mine on this subject more often than not, don't agree with the opinion you two share. If that gets your drawers wadded up, it's tough.

You both have an 'off with their heads' attitude toward state employees. I don't. I doubt the legislature does either.

Anonymous said...

Having worked for the state 30 years I think I know alittle bit about PERS. One thing to rmember PERS is backed by the full"faith and credit" of the state. It can't go bust unless the state does. Most state employees have not had any raise in the last 5 years. If you work for 25 to 30 years and then go home I think you deserve what has been promised you-13th check and all. I do agree with SF one one thing KF does not seem to like state employees.

Anonymous said...

I’m still waiting for Kingfish to elaborate on the difference between MPACT’s and PERS’s contract with the state. In a previous comment Kingfish stated that, "You’re fine. They have to honor contracts already signed.” This was a response to a poster worried about his 2 MPACT contracts with the state. If the contracts with MPACT participants “have” to be honored then shouldn’t contracts with PERS have to be honored also? I’m no donkeycrat and don’t want PERS to go down the tubes but if contracts are going to be broken then seems to me MPACT contracts have to be on the table also.

clintonrebel said...

lets not pay any bond holders either. we can't afford those debts if we continue with the spineless leadership from the legislature. and lets not pay any vendors we owe either. all those contractors and their employees out there building roads? lets just not pay their next bill. We don't have the money!!! Isnt that the same excuse for not honoring retirement commitments?

Anonymous said...

Most state employees have not had any raise in the last 5 years.

That is not the fault of anyone.

Many people in the private sector go years without a pay raise. Please show where it is written into law or stone that pay raises are a mandatory condition of employment.

If you don't like the pay find another job.

State employees are their own worst enemies.

KaptKangaroo said...

WTF is a pay raise. Last I heard, it was called, get a job or two or three or.... You get the picture.

clintonrebel said...

Balance the budget by walking away from all debts. It's easy! Just like all the underwater home owners. We'll be rich!..... Until we have to borrow money again, like Spain.

Mississippi, you cut the deal. It is simple, do you honor your obligations or not?

Anonymous said...

Why is it always cuts? Why cant this state raise revenue?!

Get Phil out of the Gynecologist office and put him to work.

KaptKangaroo said...


it has become a situation where common sense have left the building on all sides, including your own.

Kingfish said...

What are you griping about, Clinton? I merely agree with you and said give the Dems and retirees what they want. Don't touch anything. Don't tweak, don't adjust, don't do anything. Leave it all be. What's the problem?

Anonymous said...

Why cuts?

Take a look at the growth of government spending, both federal and state over the past 50 years.

Shadowfax said...

It's disingenuous to suggest that private sector employees receive raises on par with or consistent-in-time with public sector employees. Anybody who knows people in both situations knows that's not true. Anybody who has worked in both knows that is not true. Kangaroo's assertion that a pay raise means working several jobs is also untrue.

Typically private sector employers run wage, benefit and salary surveys annually or have those surveys passed to them by a company that DOES. And increases are considered and granted typically annually, but at least every other year. Sure, there are a few employers around who don't raise wages regularly, but they're the exception.

I have no idea when state employees last got across the board raises. But, it's not at all inconsistent with history to learn it's been five years. The State Personnel Board many years ago came up with a table of increments and wage ranges grouped by job categories. It's never, ever been utilized on an annual basis.

Wages for those jobs covered by that system are lower in every category than private sector jobs. Of course the answer from the mumblers is always going to be, "Well, hell, quit and go somewhere else." It's my belief that many career employees in those jobs have been counting on future benefits upon retirement to help make a difference in the wage discrepancy while working.

Now the sentiment is too often, "Let the system crash, screw state employees, let them suffer a little more, they should have invested that extra five bucks each months and we need them to maintain our elitist notion of an under-class".

Meanwhile, Kingfish concludes by suggesting the system be left along, that nothing be changed and axed "What's the problem?" Not long ago he sent out appeals for readers to send him money to keep his blog afloat, so he could by a new camera and computer and 'stuff'. Maybe the answer to him should have been the same as he's given now and in the past..."Big deal, make do with what you have, tough it out, you've wasted too much already, try cutting back, revise your wants and expenditures, take a second job."

Kingfish said...

Shadow: I never said it would wind up in Weill's court. I said it would be in Hinds County Circuit Court and he probably had a 25% chance of getting the case. No surprise as you've repeatedly demonstrated your lack of reading comprehension skills over the years.

Shadowfax said...

If your goal is to attack me personally and minimize all of my posts, congratulations, you're doing a swell job. Clearly, in my opinion, you insinuated you hoped the case would wind up there so it would be dealt with in the manner you prefer. It's OK if you can't admit it. Really, it is. By the way, I'll put my comprehension skills up against your grammatical and sentence composition skills any day.

Shadowfax said...

I replied to Kingfish's idiotic 'WTF is a payraise' commentary but it didn't make the cut here. No surprise.

Shadowfax said...

And to Kangaroot's suggestion that there could be a 'run on the fund', it would be helpful (to himself) if he would read or ask questions about membership. A current employee has no right or authority to 'make a run' on the bank and withdraw his money. Nor does a retiree. Nothing either of you (Kingfish and KingfishRoo) has said yet about this subject withstands the weight of scrutiny.

KaptKangaroo said...

Isn't it a contract? Contracts have many clauses, I assume there is an accelerated payout associated with health situations? Or, perhaps lump sum payments that could be legislated as an addendum?

You continue to think inside that little box SFX.

bill said...

Shadowfax, I challenge your contention that the salaries of state workers are lower than those in comparable jobs on the private side. Of course there are some, but I think there are plenty who make more - certainly not less - than their private counterparts. Teachers in public schools generally make more than teachers in private schools. Nurses at University make as much or more than nurses at Baptist. Custodians and lower level employees probably make more working for the state. Office staff and lower level management also make as much or more in the public sector. The private side higher level employees make more because they've usually earned it by adding value to the company, something that is not recognized in government. I've made this argument before - compare the number of people on the private side who are trying to get a government job to the number of people in government who are trying to get a private job and that will tell you which one is more desirable.

Shadowfax said...

Kangaroo: I provided the link to a retiree handbook earlier. The PERS website is a massive site. Go look it up yourself. There's also a handbook for participants other than retirees. There is no option for withdrawing all the money you have in the system short of resignation or death.

Bill: What can I say. Get the data from the State Personnel Board. It's not unusual for office managers in the private sector to make 60k or for receptionists and over rated executive assistants to make over 50. Sure, you and I can always cherry pick a job here or there where the state incumbent appears to be in a higher range than a private sector incumbent. I think you know that's not the norm though. Go down to the Board and ask to review some of the comparative data used to maintain the wage and salary tables.

Meanwhile, something's gotta be did about these two-headed dregs of society we call state employees.

bill said...

I think the general rule is that the lower the salary the more likely that the state employee is doing better than a private employee in the same or a similar job. My point is that it's a stretch to say that state employees resign themselves to lower pay just because they know they'll get a generous retirement. Rent and utilities can't wait 25 years, and the non-retirement benefits and paid time off make up for any difference in salary. Again, there are a lot more people seeking state jobs than there are fleeing them.

Anonymous said...

State employees haven't had an across the board pay raise (from the Legislature) in 7 or 8 years...not 5. Looks like it's going to be 8 or 9.

Anonymous said...

State employees haven't had an across the board pay raise (from the Legislature) in 7 or 8 years...not 5. Looks like it's going to be 8 or 9.

Shadowfax said...

Bill; not only are you making baseless claims, now you've gone to fabricating arguments. Regardless of how 'stretched' you feel, nobody has made the claim that state employees seek out or take state jobs because they know they'll get a generous retirement. What has been said and what remains a fact is that, on the whole, the thousands upon thousands of jobs falling under the PERS system are not high paying jobs and in many cases are low paying jobs. And it is also a fact that most of them realize and understand the benefits package during and following employment and have faith in what they've been promised verbally and in writing. It's something to look forward to. Ask any 20-30-40 year employee.

Your claim of 'paid time off making up for low wages' runs counter to your silly comment about the rent not being able to wait for retirement. Who in their right mind would take a low paying job simply because they anticipate getting a paid day off?

Anonymous said...

If Brandon Presley grew a beard would he look more like Haystack Calhoun or Man Mountain Mike?

Anonymous said...

It is clear to me, most don't appreciate the parallels to this type of situation when it comes to talking about PERS.

Kingfish said...

Y'all want to honor the contract? No problem.

All you state employees who were hired BEFORE 1999, well, those benefits added in that year were not part of the contract so if we revoke those benefits, no lawsuit. How do you like that interpretation of your position?

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