Sunday, May 28, 2023

Bill Crawford: PEER Report on PERS More Bold Than Usual

 You probably missed the Mississippi Legislature’s PEER Committee report on the Mississippi Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS). Most of these annual discourses have been worth missing. But PEER’s FY 2022 report issued May 18th was a little more bold than usual.

“Based on the results of the evaluation metrics in the funding policy as of June 30, 2022, all three of the plan’s metrics are at red signal-light status,” stated the report.

Sounds bad. It is. But, as it has over many years, PEER concludes everything at PERS will be hunky dory if they just raise the employer contribution rate.

“Based on these results, and the negative investment experience of the plan for FY 2022, the plan’s actuary recommended increasing the plan’s employer contribution rate from 17.4% to 22.4%,” reads the report. It then projected the three signal lights would be green in FY 2047 if rates are increased.

Think about that, then consider the following.

In 2019, the PEER review of PERS said a rate increase to 17.4% would yield a future funding ratio of 95.8% by 2047. In 2013, the PEER review of PERS said a rate increase to 15.75% would yield an 80% funding level by 2042. None of those worked, nor did other rate increases over the years from 9.75% to 14.26%.

In all its reports, PEER has relied upon PERS, its actuaries, and its consultants for the findings reported. None looked beyond at independent reviews, such as the one orchestrated by Gov. Haley Barbour in 2011. His PERS Study Commission recommended substantive changes to PERS to get its financial house in order. PERS, PEER, the Legislature, and top state officials virtually ignored that study. (Read study recommendations and responses on pages 80-97 at )

However, in January, PERS board member State Treasurer David McRae voted against the increase, saying, “I have a lot of problems raising it to 22.4%.” Then, after many local officials objected to the rate increase, several legislators proposed stripping PERS of its power to raise rates. The bill died, but PERS agreed to delay the rate hike until July 1, 2024, to give legislators time to consider changes outside an election year.

In a letter to the Legislature, PERS Executive Director Ron Higgins said PERS would provide recommendations on how to deal with some of the funding issues. They will have to be far more substantive than what PEER has said.

As found by the Barbour commission, PERS became structurally unsound in 2002 when the Legislature completed raising benefits without providing a funding mechanism. Incorrect estimates of retiree numbers, active employees, salary increases, inflation, and the fixed COLA have conflated the problem. The funding gap has now exceeded $20 billion. Simply pecking at it with rate increases won’t fix it.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” – Ephesians 6:14.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson. He served on PERS Study Commission.


Anonymous said...

PERS cannot be allowed to default on its contractual obligations to pay what is owed to retirees. It’s like a private employer stealing back its employer matching amount when the employee retires. Employees experience employers to meet its obligation that it promises while the employee is working.

Anonymous said...

Whoah! Hold on! Where's page 2? Surely this genius has a four-point solution. Lord, he was once on the State IHL Board so he's gotta be real smart. Plus he's drawing a PERS retirement, right? I mean, lemme sit at his feet with a note-pad.

Anonymous said...

The Ponzi is nearing total inversion and they don't know how to fit it? You don't say.

The floor is swept, the scissors are sharp, come on in retirees!

Anonymous said...

Will the last one in the room please turn out the lights

Anonymous said...

Abolish PERS, refund everyone, and let them put it in a 401k

Anonymous said...

Two Sundays in a row with real journalism from Mr. Crawford. Nice work sir!

In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:14

Anonymous said...

11:06, good advice for the 2024 Legislature to pass, as there are three years until the next election for the affected state employees' firestorm to "cool off".

Anonymous said...

9:23, it won’t be the current retirees that get haircuts. They will keep cashing the 13th checks. It’s the current workers who will get screwed, and that’s after they paid in much more than the people currently retired.

Our legislators will never make solid long term decisions that cost them politically in the short term.

Anonymous said...

I am a retired school teacher. The only reason I stayed in Mississippi to teach was because I had family and I could retire with PERS. Screw with PERS and you will have fewer kids who will want to stay here and be teachers. The State of Mississippi have millions in surplus. They should just shore up PERS and be done with it. Besides the retirement flows back into the economy and allows retirees to live out their years with dignity.

I earned my retirement. If you neysayors don't believe me try teaching in a Mississippi public school for eight hours a day, do bus duty at 7:00 a.m. with hardly a bathroom break and then say PERS should be destroyed.

Anonymous said...

You didn’t mention the 3 months off each year and those long holidays and breaks.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:23 - I hope this made sense to you since it won't to anybody else:

"The Ponzi is nearing total inversion and they don't know how to fit it?"

Zero Wolf, Beta Wolf said...

My money is and has always been on the Kingfarce being 'the haircut guy'. He proves me right with each successive post. Of course he'll bust up in here, ranting, calling me a liar, while knowing I'm right. LOL and HAR!

Anonymous said...

I am a baby boomer who just started collecting my PEERS. Before I retired, everyone 40 and under clearly spent most of their workday staring at their phones. There were no such things as smartphones for the first 25 years of my career. I honestly worked for this. Make the lazy bums in the new generation pay triple to sure up my retirement. They don’t even deserve to be paid to watch TikTok on the taxpayer dime anyways.

Anonymous said...

1:45: Did you earn your retirement by teaching your students to write, “the State of Mississippi have”?

Anonymous said...

I am retired and I have a self funded 401K plan. I manage the investments. When there are reasons to change investments, I personally change them. Why in the world should I as a Mississippi resident pay for the stupidity of the life long (uninspired and lazy non productive employees) of the state pay for the retirements under the umbrella of the state)

Anonymous said...

Saying for the 10th time when you started the 13th check this problem started.

Anonymous said...

As I understand, it is not only teachers who receive PERS. All state and county employees are covered. This includes the judicial system with all of it's prosecutors, District Attorneys, Judges, etc.

MDOT, MDOR, MWCC, MDES, and many more.

If I am incorrect, please let me know.

I have been self-employed all of my 60-plus years of working so I have to provide for myself.

Anonymous said...

The problem with PEER is that it is a political committee. Every PEER Committee report is pre-designed to say exactly what the legislator asking for the report wants it to say. PEER investigators have no special education and experience that supports their work - they do the best they can for what is essentially a lay person. Often they don’t even understand what state workers tell them when they are asking questions - they don’t understand the programs, they don’t understand the complexities - and it doesn’t matter because the report will say what the legislator wants it to say in the end. Not saying that PERS does not need to be reviewed, or that it doesn’t need to be managed differently, but relying on a PEER report to adequately define the needs is not a wise decision.

Anonymous said...

3:45 you're uninformed.
Teachers get about 6 weeks off in the summer not 3 months
Sure Christmas and Thanksgiving are the other holidays and a short spring break.
I wanted to be a teacher and I did an excellent job, but I have earned my
PERS retirement.
Go to Alabama and see how much more teachers are paid
and how much more they get in retirement.
Do we want a decent government that lets people retire in modest dignity?

Anonymous said...

Executive director is not Ron. It’s Ray.

Anonymous said...

Where has Bennie been? He should have grabbed some of Joe’s money during his spending spree to prop up PERS. Evidently Joe propped up other pension funds.

Anonymous said...

Every private sector employee I know (and I retired as one myself) who has over twelve years of employment earns between six and nine weeks of vacation, plus sick and personal time, plus holidays, three day weekends and the ability to knock off for medical and other personal issues and appointments.

No state employee comes close to that cushion of benefits.

Imagine a teacher telling the principal, "I need to knock off this afternoon for my kid's ball game or ballet thing".

Anonymous said...

@3:14, what industry did you work in, because I think I need to change jobs. The only people I've ever heard of getting 6 weeks of vacation are people that work for federal contractors. Much less six weeks vacation and personal time.

And don't know if you noticed, but teachers get sick time and three day weekends. And other state employees often get that plus the same flexibility to pop out for medical or personal issues that lucky people in the private sector get.

Anonymous said...

@ May 29, 10:05am:

It's not about whether you earned it or not. It's about who is going to pay it. Government workers should have been objecting to the ridiculousness of PERS to try to protect their retirement. INstead, they largely ignored it with the hopes of somebody else getting screwed. We're approachign the part where somebody has to get screwed b/c everytime they raise the employer contribution, government entities replace more employees with contractors, which ensures the increase doesn't close the gap.

Really sucks for younger workers who have had enough contributed generally to cover their would be pension payments, even though they are still ridiculously not actuarily determined.

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