In a rare move, members of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee voted Thursday to assure public employees that their 13th checks will remain untouched as legislators look for ways to fund the fiscal year 2013 budget that takes effect July 1.
“One thing is for sure, we have an agreement between current retirees and employees that represents a contract that should not be broken,” Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said.
“I will not support any plan to eliminate the 13th check or change the arrangement current retirees and current employees have with (the Public Employees Retirement System).”
Legislators last year raised the amount of employee contributions to the retirement system from 7.25 to 9 percent of their salaries, and the amount could go up again this year, said PERS Executive Director Pat Robertson.
Budget-writing legislators said they were concerned about the prospect of having to pump more money into the system to help make it sustainable.
Employer contributions to PERS have risen from 9.75 percent in 2005 to 12.93 percent in January 2012.
The state-funded share of the PERS budget for 2013 would be about $26.4 million, noted Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Doug Davis, R-Hernando.
Meantime, employee contributions rose from 7.25 percent to 9 percent in 2010, according to PERS facts and figures, raising fears among employees that they may have to pay even more in the future and decreasing the amount of their take-home pay.
“These people have every right to be concerned. This is their livelihood,” said House Education Committee chairman Cecil Brown, a CPA.
Brown noted that the 3 percent COLA is a solid number since the average annual rate of inflation over the last 80 years has been 3.1 percent.