The board of trustees for the state’s defined benefit pension system held their monthly meeting Tuesday.
Among the issues considered by the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi board included bills in the Legislature and returns on investments from the last six months.
The performance of the fund’s investments in the last six months of the calendar year showed a massive improvement from the the double-digit losses sustained during the COVID-19 related shutdowns.
According to numbers supplied by PERS, the plan’s investments earned 12.19 percent for the quarter, with international stocks leading the way with 19.03 percent returns, U.S. stocks showing gains of 17.25 percent and global stocks rebounding to 14.43 percent returns.
This was after the disastrous first quarter of 2020, when PERS holdings endured losses of 14.11 percent before rebounding to finish with positive returns of 3.35 percent.
The plan’s holdings are primarily in U.S. stocks (28.32 percent or $9.2 billion) and stocks outside the US (22.64 percent or $7.35 billion).
Trustee Kelly Breland, who chairs the investment committee, said PERS outperformed between 95 to 98 percent of its public pension fund peers in the last six months of 2020.
That sparkling performance was still not enough for the plan to meet the plan’s expectation for annual returns, which is 7.75 percent.
PERS executive director Ray Higgins told the trustees that his staff have been in touch with several bond ratings agencies and they’re “continuing to monitor” the assumed rate of return for PERS, which according to the non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts is higher than all but 13 states.
According to the annual financial report, the plan’s investment income was down nearly 50 percent from the year before (net position decreased by $393 million) and the unfunded liability increased from $17.6 billion to $19.4 billion.
There were eight bills filed in the Legislature this year concerning PERS, with all of them dying before the committee deadline on February 2. Most of these bills were designed to either to prevent PERS beneficiaries who were convicted of job-related felonies from receiving benefits or to allow lawmakers to collect their pensions while serving in the Legislature. According to state law, lawmakers have to stop receiving retirement benefits while serving in the Legislature.
State Sen. Josh Harkins, R-Flowood and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, filed a bill with code sections related to PERS as a vehicle for possible changes, but that bill was allowed to die without making it out of committee.