Democrats vow to block bill to freeze 13th check - - The News for South Mississippi

Democrats vow to block bill to freeze 13th check

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Democratic lawmakers are sending a message to some Republicans who are taking aim at the public employees retirement system, known as PERS.

"Leave our money alone," said Sen. Kenneth Jones, a democrat from Canton.

Democrats are promising to be a blockade to legislation which is set to put a freeze on the cost of living adjustment for state retirees, also known as the thirteenth check.

"I don't think it's fair that you give us 25 years, 30 years, and then we come back and renege on our promises to what we're supposed to do for you," said Jones.

"What I want to do is start a conversation," said Sen. Nancy Collins, a republican from Tupelo.

Collins is behind one of several bills looking to create the freeze. Collins says she doesn't want to eliminate the cost of living adjustment, but simply explore the option of freezing it at it's current rate for a few years until the system can become more financially sound.

"I want to bring hope to the many state employees that are going to retire on PERS. We want to ensure that there's longevity in the PERS system," said Collins.

Democratic representative Steve Holland says the legislation is misguided and will financially harm retirees.

"My dear friend and brand new senator, Nancy Collins, from Robert E. Lee County Mississippi has jumped into a hornet's nest. That's what she's done," said Holland.

Currently, Collins says PERS is funded at about 57 percent but needs to be at 80 percent to operate long term. By implementing a freeze, Collins says it'll give the system a better financial footing for those yet to retire.

"We as a state need to look at the people we have promised things to and say how long can this continue," said Collins.

Democrats say they won't even consider a change to the system without the full support and recommendation of the PERS board first.

"When the board brings us a recommendation, I promise you Senator Collins, we'll have dialogue, but we're not interested otherwise," said Holland.

Legislation would also add seven more members to the PERS board and would suspend the cost of living adjustment if the PERS system falls below a 70 percent funding level. It would resume when the level is back above 70.

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