TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- State Sen. Nancy Collins of Tupelo is sponsoring a bill that would freeze the cost of living adjustment for three years for state and local government retirees.
"Part of my goal to serve the people is to start the conversations that we would rather not have [otherwise]," said State Sen. Nancy Collins (R-Tupelo).
Collins says her plan is to make the Public Employee Retirement System sustainable for the foreseeable future by making some changes, changes that she says might not be popular, but necessary.
"What I'd love to see our Legislature do is just begin the discussion, because we have retirees who are very important to me," said Collins. "They are dependent on these checks. So we want to fix the system so that the solvency of the system or its future is safe for them. That is my job."
Collins has introduced a bill that -- among other things -- would freeze the increase on the cost of living adjustment that state retirees receive each year, known by some as the "thirteenth check."
Collins says that in some instances, there are retirees receiving as much as $50,000 a year for cost of living adjustments.
She adds the system has 58 percent of the money it needs to cover expenses for the next several years. But she worries about making up the difference.
"42 percent is not funded. If the system had to pay out everything today, which I don't think it would, what's going to happen to the 42-percent?" Collins asked.
She says the national standard is 80 percent funding.
Collins would also like to see changes to the board that oversees PERS by giving the governor and lieutenant governor the authority to appoint three more members.
Right now they are elected by other retirees.
"I am disappointed in some of our people for even thinking about some of the things that are on this proposed bill," said Jimmy Dahlem.
Dahlem is a former school superintendent from Monroe County. He's also running for a seat on the PERS Board.
"In 1970, when I signed a contract with the state, I agreed to work for them for a salary and they took retirement out of my check," Dahlem said. "They didn't ask if I wanted to, but they deducted it and their contract was to provide a pension when we were eligible to draw. Now I'm eligible and I'm depending on mine just like everyone else. So I'd like to see it stay just like it is."
Dahlem said he wasn't happy about the bill giving the governor and lieutenant governor three members on the PERS Board.
"I am very much against this because I think this is a backdoor way to give control of the [PERS] Board to the governor and the Legislature," Dahlem said.
Collins says her plan would also eliminate the retirement plan of legislators elected after Jan. 1, 2011.