House Speaker Philip Gunn continues to play hardball with the state retirees who were elected in November to represent voters in the Pinebelt, southeast Mississippi, and DeSoto County. The legislators being targeted qualify to serve in the Legislature while drawing their retirement, according to a new PERS regulation and an Attorney General opinion issued last summer. Read more here.
Gunn is attempting to force the legislators out by refusing to pay them the reduced legislative salary required in order for them to continue drawing their retirement. One of the four, Ramona Blackledge, resigned under duress last week, unable to risk the PERS retirement that Gunn is threatening and that is her primary source of income. She describes Gunn’s pressure campaign in this interview on WJTV.
The three remaining legislators could pursue legal action to force Gunn to comply with the law and the new PERS regulation, but that can get expensive. You can help! A Go Fund Me account has been established to assist with the cost of their legal representation and help ensure that the policy remains intact for future retirees who wish to serve in the Legislature. A donation of any size can be made here – $5, $100, $1,000 – any amount will be appreciated.
Incumbent legislators have had a sweetheart deal all these years, as the old PERS policy effectively reduced the potential pool of challengers by more than 100,000 Mississippians. There are so few people who are willing to serve in the Legislature and can afford to do so that a whopping 77 of the 174 legislative seats were uncontested last November. Voters in those districts had no choice in whom they elected to represent them.
It appears that Gunn would like to keep it that way.
Here are the facts:
• Mississippi retirees have long been allowed to draw their PERS retirement and serve in county and city elected positions
• Other states with retirement systems that have the same IRS tax status as Mississippi’s PERS system allow their retirees to serve in their Legislatures and draw their state retirement pensions
• Having retirees serve in the Mississippi Legislature while drawing their retirement saves the state money, because retirees are required to draw a reduced legislative salary
• Allowing retirees to serve in the Legislature while drawing their retirement does not increase the burden on the PERS system; those retirees will either draw retirement and serve in the Legislature at a reduced salary, or they will draw their retirement and stay home while another person serves in the Legislature at full salary
Here’s how you can help:
• Donate to help cover the cost of legal assistance and protect the policy for future retirees
• Share the donation link with your friends and encourage them to donate
You can reach Speaker Gunn at his Capitol office at 601.359.3300.
Mississippi’s retired educators and other state retirees have a wealth of knowledge to offer our state. With your help, we can protect their right to serve and draw their hard-earned retirement pensions. After all, together, we’ve got this!