Will Killing Legislators' Perks Work? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Will Killing Legislators' Perks Work?

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Will legislators support Luckett's plan to cut their retirement savings program?

If elected governor, Bill Luckett says he will end the states' Supplemental Legislative Retirement Program and use those savings to fund education.

While campaigning, Luckett has frequently attacked Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant by pointing out that Bryant received a retirement pension that is 1.5 times higher than that of state employees because lawmakers set it up that way.

Created in 1989, SLRP provides retirement benefits to all members of the state Legislature and the lieutenant governor, the state had set aside $9.8 million in trust for benefits and spent $799,000 in 2008 for administrative fees and benefit payments to legislators.

"Career politicians who have been on the public payroll for decades don't deserve any better retirement program than do our teachers, law enforcement and other state employees," Luckett said in a July 21 statement. "The game of climbing up the ladder of political offices election after election looking for a 'high four years' pay grade before retirement is a clear-cut example of why we need a governor who approaches the job as a public service, not a career goal to ensure a cushy retirement."

Luckett is proposing to take funds from the program and put them toward the state's Reading is Fundamental Program. The program provided more than 85,000 books last year to children in Mississippi through $442,721 in federal funds, but those funds are no longer available. The Barksdale Reading Institute has also donated to the program in the past.

State Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, said he isn't counting on SLRP to fund his retirement and wouldn't miss it if it were gone.

Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said he wouldn't mind seeing it go toward education, but it is a benefit he feels he has earned.

"We pay 3 percent more than any other state employee for that," he said. "I voted against it to start with, but I am accepting it. I am close to retirement, and I am going to enjoy the hell out of it when it happens."

Holland admitted that most legislators, while they might not depend on SLRP, aren't likely to pass a bill that would cut those perks. He also thinks Luckett's position could cost him some votes.

"Bill Luckett isn't going to gain one vote by picking this fight with the very group of people that—should he have the good fortune of getting elected—is going to have to make this mark for him," Holland said.

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