Sunday, March 31, 2024

Bill Crawford: Legislature, not Local Governments, Should Fund $26B PERS Gap

The Legislature was going to make a serious effort to fix PERS this year. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann called it “the major issue” for this session. House Speaker Jason White said, “we want to fix this long term.”

That’s not happening. Revamping the board and a one-time appropriation of a couple hundred million, while constructive, will not fix PERS.

The fix will take one of two things, or some of both – lots more money coming in or lots less money going out over a 30-year or so period.

The financial health of a defined benefit plan like PERS must be calculated over a long time frame. Participants accrue benefits every year. Retirees accrue COLA benefits every year. PERS has to make sure projected income from employee and employer contributions and investment earnings will provide sufficient funds to cover projected payouts for current and future benefits. If there is a projected shortfall it goes on the books as unfunded accrued liabilities (UAL).

In 2011, the UAL was $14.4 billion and growing. It is now $26 billion and growing.

To fix PERS, the UAL must not only stop growing but be greatly reduced. For more than a decade PERS has increased employer contribution rates to try to fix the problem. That approach failed.

In 2011, Gov. Haley Barbour’s PERS Study Commission recommended changes to benefit payouts. The Legislature ignored recommended changes and they would no longer be sufficient to fix PERS.

PERS now says, oh, we just need lots and lots more money from employer contributions.

“Calf rope!” yelled cities, counties, and other local government entities.

While the Legislature controls PERS, it does not (with few exceptions) pay retirement costs for local government entities. Their share (estimated at 25% plus) comes from local taxes and fees. Already, that share is strangling their budgets. Shoving billions more on them would be devastating, especially since they have no say in how PERS operates or gets funded.

The bottom line is it will take billions of dollars in new revenues to close the current gap plus some future benefit tightening to prevent future UAL gaps.

The Legislature, spurred by PERS leadership, passed laws from 1999 to 2002 that created this generous benefit system without an adequate funding system. They have failed for years to address the growing problem. They won’t cut benefits. So, they should now pay the piper, all of it – either from the general fund or a special tax.

“And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ And the people did not answer him a word.” – 1 Kings 18:21.

Crawford, a syndicated columnist from Jackson, was a member of the 2011 PERS Study Commission.


Anonymous said...

Got a funny feeling this issue is going to take some pictures off the wall at the State Capitol.

Anonymous said...

This was a bill to benefit some lobbyists who needed to kill a "threat" in order to justify their existence. Or, could be the Chairman paying the casinos back for some slight.

Anonymous said...

Torpedo dead ahead, and all of Mississippi's compartments are already flooded.

Politics in Mississippi is going to get very ugly in the not-to-distant future.

Anonymous said...

Tell us something we don't know. Anybody who can read knows this has been cussed and discussed ad infinitum for the past three or four weeks on multiple media sources, public speakings and legislators' public venues.

Your epistle is copy and paste at its worst.

PS: Delbark has not mentioned the subject in months. He knows he will not be elected governor if this Board replacement thing becomes law.

And Tater knows he can kiss his vision of attaining Cindy's position goodbye if he signs it.

Anonymous said...

Barbour was the governor who started the proceedure that allowed agency heads to be exempt from State Personnel Board rules and put a hatchet to any and all employees without recourse. That's when the headcount began it's negative movement.

Recently, your Lt. Governor bragged in campaign literature that he has reduced the size of government employees. Now he laments it.

Anonymous said...

When all the boomers die off, it will be fine.

Anonymous said...

The house is passing the blame on to someone else so they can claim they didn't have anything to do with the destruction of PERS. That's why they voted to give the governor and lt. governor the authority to select board members. These legislators are simply making a move to be able tell their constituents that it's someone else's fault. PERS will survive. I hope these legislators that will look you in the eye and lie to you won't. If they will do away with SLRP which is something they never should have had then I will do my part.

Anonymous said...

The lack of action to address this is another example of the failure by our elected representatives to provide solutions to not only the financial problems at PERS, but with the financial stability of our country as a whole. With the debt in the neighborhood of $36 TRILLION and growing larger by the minute, at some point the government will no longer be able to service the debt. I am not smart enough to know what the consequences will be, but I don’t think it will be good. As with PERS the solutions to our financial problems will not be popular, but necessary for the future generations.
As long as the primary goal of our elected representatives is to be re-elected, they will not make the difficult/ unpopular decisions that are necessary. At some point in the not to distant future, the system collapses.
It’s our fault for continuing to elect the same people over and over again, but expecting different results.

Anonymous said...

The present governor (his name will come to me shortly) was an automatic member of this board for 8 years, while state treasurer. Now he's suddenly interested in Board membership?

What did he contribute, oppose, favor, put forth or find disfavorable all those years?

Anonymous said...

@1:52, the answer is nothing because even if he had any ideas on solutions for the long term funding of PERS it is likely those solutions would have been unpopular with PERS members. All he wanted to be was re-elected, then elected Lt. Governor, then Governor, then US Senator.
ALL of the current elected representatives know that PERS will be around another 10-20 years and they will be long gone slurping their benefits.
As one state senator once told me, anytime someone mentions changes to PERS they get death threats. It will take real courage to change the system.

Anonymous said...

SLURP should be the first thing to go.
I can’t believe this discriminatory program has not been challenged in Court.
Why should legislators be the only state employees who enjoy this grift?

Anonymous said...

Destruction ? How so ?
So just tell the legislators don’t do anything, it’ll be aight??

Anonymous said...

I will not vote for any current legislator living in my district pretending to represent me by trying to pull the wool over my eyes. When my legislators do something with SLRP that compares to what they want to do with PERS then I will come back around to listening to what they have to say.

Anonymous said...

But, but...the talking heads of Super-Talk assure us all that SLRP should be ignored since it's chump change.

The talking heads don't understand the message sent by the creation of SLRP in the first place.

I've ordered a case of T-shirts to be delivered to the SuperTalk suite.

The shirt reads:


Anonymous said...


"Supplemental Legislative Retirement Plan (SLRP)

Effective July 1, 1989, the Mississippi Legislature enacted a Supplemental Legislative Retirement Plan (SLRP) for members of the State Legislature and the President of the Senate (Lieutenant Governor).

The plan was designed to supplement the benefits provided to members of the Legislature by PERS. Those
serving when SLRP became effective had 30 days to waive membership.

Those elected after July 1, 1989,
automatically became members.
Like PERS, SLRP is a defined benefit plan, and, though members of SLRP are also mandatory members of PERS, SLRP is funded by employee and employer contributions separate from those made to PERS.

Eligibility for benefits is determined by eligibility requirements in PERS. The retirement allowance is 50 percent of an amount equal to the retirement allowance payable by PERS determined by credited service and salary as an elected senator or representative in the Mississippi Legislature or as President of the Senate.

Benefits vest upon completion of the requisite number of membership service years in PERS.

SLRP also provides certain death and disability benefits. Members who terminate coverage prior to
becoming eligible for a retirement allowance may request a refund of employee contributions.

Retirees and beneficiaries of SLRP also receive a COLA calculated identically to those provided to PERS retirees and beneficiaries."

Anonymous said...

"When all the boomers die off, it will be fine."

Astute and accurate observation, because it's what this whole PERS equation is really all about - timing.

Is it possible to acquire the age breakdown of all those receiving benefits at present to estimate that timing when things would be brought back in to balance? Do the legislators already have that information? It really would be easier to determine if/when there is a point of no return.

Anonymous said...

Legislators are in PERS and SLRP is under PERS as well, I don’t understand what you think they are doing that is so bad ? I know a bunch of them and the thought they d mess their own retirement up is a stupid idea .

Anonymous said...

When the majority of PERS funding comes from state income taxes and local property taxes, how do y’all think it’s going to survive when only a fraction of Mississippians actually work and pay state income taxes bc most live off government entitlements like Social Security and SSI and are exempt from paying state income taxes. And those on SS only pay a fraction of property taxes due to special homestead exemption they get. Also, all the folks working for cash and not reporting or paying state income taxes in Mississippi is epidemic. Look around, there are very few people working and honestly reporting and paying taxes these days.

Anonymous said...

People like to ignore math until it can't be ignored any longer. Costs are going up, the government gets its money from taxes. Therefore, taxes must go up, yeah you can look around and trim some fat from budgets so that the increase isn't dollar for dollar but at the end of the day that is what will have to happen. Should have done something 20 years ago but now it is time to pay the piper.

Anonymous said...

About 40 years ago, four brilliant women in finance and/or accounting were laughing at lunch about the predictable political appearance of PERS "male hysteria". It's an affliction confined usually to elected officials and pundits who take them seriously. It's particularly noticeable in males who have been out of school (any level) for 5+ years including those who had graduate level math, but not relevant coursework. Nor did they ever look at successful state retirement fund evaluation methods. Rather than admit they are clueless they have a common manner of attempting to hide their cluelessness. They stare at the documents, and nod sagely,look at the ceiling (often forming a pyramid with tips of the fingers on both hands) and announce they are " concerned" as this is "serious".
Here's a little secret...IF you can't look beyond the numbers to the operational environment and unique characteristics of the population served and you don't know how to forecast accurately, panic is inevitable. If you don't bother to look at successful plans,you don't know what solutions might work here or even whether a problem exists at all.
You do know that x number of people who paid in, will die (or have died)? Some workers move away and never bother to claim what was paid in...too much aggravation for too little return. Paperwork gets lost in moves after retirement or after qualifying.
The Mississippi legislature for years , only had two people who actually understood and could explain the math. Both are gone. Delbert probably can but it's doubtful he gets accurate information and has the forensic accounting skills to see what's "off" in the figures he does get.

But, y'all keep on electing those good ole boys, ok?

Anonymous said...

The "gap" is really much worse than PERS and its actuary present. Here's a link to the Federal Reserve website where state public pension liabilities are presented. In 2021, the unfunded liability for Mississippi was $41.2 billion. Using the same discount for 2023 as the Fed uses, it's $47.5 billion for PERS alone. Friends, this is going in the wrong direction using a constant discount rate. Mississippi can solve this problem only with a major restructuring of PERS, an infusion of cash for a period of time, and a constitutional amendment to restrain the Legislature from committing the errors of the 1998-2002 period and to require employers to pay the actuarially determined contributions.

Anonymous said...

Crawford is wrong. Local governments are already getting away with below market wages because they have PERS. The state should not bail out the local governments portion of PERS. That would be subsidizing the local governments. The local mayors need to tighten the belt.

Anonymous said...

Once again, there are billions to access from the community colleges and universities. An ocean of money to shore things up, while fixing it all and righting the canoe.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel


Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS