Barbour: PERS panel head won’t meet with legislators

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel, chair of a commission established by Gov. Haley Barbour to study the state’s retirement system, will not meet with legislative leaders.
When the Legislative Budget Committee met last month to work on a budget proposal for the upcoming session, Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, requested that Schloegel meet with the group to discuss the work of Barbour’s Public Employees Retirement System Study Commission.
But this week, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, chair of the Budget Committee, responded to Flaggs’ request in a letter, saying he discussed the issue with Barbour, who “believes it would be inappropriate for Mr. Schloegel to meet with the Budget Committee.”
The Republican lieutenant governor added Barbour said it would not be proper because Schloegel is not a state employee and the commission is not a state agency.
The work of the commission is being funded through $250,000 in federal stimulus funds, plus the group has relied on data provided by the PERS staff.
Barbour spokeswoman Laura Hipp said Friday the PERS Study Commission is in the early stages of its analysis.
Almost 165,000 state employees, local and city workers, community and junior college faculty and school district personnel, including teachers, are covered by PERS. Plus, there are 79,200 retirees in the system in addition to 129,300 inactive members, who previously worked in the public sector and at some point will be eligible for some benefits.
As of June 30, the system was funded at about 65 percent of its anticipated costs over a 30-year period.
The commission will release recommendations Nov. 15.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com