Governor calls special session about worker retirement pension - - Jackson, MS

Governor calls special session about worker retirement pension

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By Ashley Conroy - email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - In a press conference Thursday at the state capitol, Governor Haley Barbour called a special session for lawmakers to sort out the state's Public Employee Retirement System or PERS.

The governor is asking lawmakers to vote for making state employees contribute towards their retirements instead of having the state pay more.

"If we don't do this, then $70 million will be lost to the general fund, which undoubtedly results in people being laid off," said Governor Barbour.

The Mississippi Retirement Board has already voted to increase the state's contribution as it has in years past.

Barbour said about 1,000 state workers or more could face layoffs if this happens.

"Perhaps a thousand or more lay offs would be required if the departments and agencies take this amount of money out of their budgets," said Barbour.

Currently, the state matches around 12 percent for every state worker's retirement.  State employees match 7.25 percent, but Barbour is calling on workers to pay 9 percent.

In addition, he said when the state pays more, it means tax payers end up pulling more out of their pockets.

But lawmakers who oppose the measure said state workers will have to reduce their annual salaries because more of their paychecks will go towards retirement.

House Appropriations Committee member Cecil Brown had mixed opinions about it.  He said it isn't good either way, but he doesn't want to see state workers get laid off.

"Our issue is whether or not we're going to let that happen, or we're going to vote to raise the employee's contribution, which will cost every state employee something," said Brown.

Meanwhile, the PERS board voted to increase the employer's contribution by 1.56 percent for fiscal year 2011.

The governor said this move will ultimately result in more cuts because that 1.56 percent will be taken out of all agencies' budgets.

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