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Saturday, May 28, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesGERS REJECTS EARLY RETIREMENT BILL

GERS REJECTS EARLY RETIREMENT BILL

An early retirement incentive bill was rejected by the Government Employees Retirement Board and upstaged by another government official at a Government Operations Committee hearing Thursday night.
The bill, proposed by Sens. Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Donald "Ducks" Cole and David Jones, would set up a system of advance service credits that employees could purchase toward retirement.
It would allow workers with 25 years of service to leave early and "buy" their remaining time to 30 years by contributing 8 percent of their annuity over the remaining years. The senators said their aim was to avoid mass government layoffs while providing a "workable vehicle" for early retirement.
However, that's not the way Corrine King, GERS board chairwoman, or Ira Mills, director of Management and Budget, saw it.
King rejected the bill for several reasons, the most important being funding. She said the government could not guarantee the $15 million the bill proposes to use to finance the program. The money is to come from the government's $300 million bond issue.
She also objected to a provision excluding teachers, police officers and other essential workers from the program, calling it "unconstitutional." The bill would only cover executive branch employees.
Mills read from a nine-page document criticizing the bill almost in its entirety. He said the money cannot be paid directly to GERS because of certain "covenants" in the bond issue. He also called the proposal "unconstitutional" and "irrational," citing retirement dates in it that could not possibly be met.
Mills said that since the bill would cause positions to be closed permanently upon retirement, vital jobs would be eliminated, and that a provision banning the government from contracting with former government employees could prevent many workers from sharing their expertise in the private sector and the government from farming out more operations to the private sector.
Liburd replied that the bill was a "working document." Cole accused Mills of "sabotaging" the proposal.
But the real fireworks started later when Mills revealed that he had a retirement plan of his own that he had just finishing drafting. He said his plan would cost less, about $9 million, and was more viable.
The bill's sponsors seemed astonished, and demanded copies. Mills said he had just completed the final draft Thursday.
Cole questioned how he could have done that when they all had spent the day together meeting with the governor. Mills said he had "dictated" the final draft at that time.
Jones accused Mills of "highjacking" their bill at the "11th hour," and in an evening already filled with sparring between Mills and Cole, Cole accused Mills of disrespect and of playing politics. For the second time in the evening, Committee Chair Gregory Bennerson had to use his gavel to bring order.
Two more committee hearings are scheduled on the proposal, one at 6 p.m. Friday on St. John and another at 6 p.m. Monday on St. Croix. Mills promised to have his proposal with him Friday in St. John.

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An early retirement incentive bill was rejected by the Government Employees Retirement Board and upstaged by another government official at a Government Operations Committee hearing Thursday night.
The bill, proposed by Sens. Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Donald "Ducks" Cole and David Jones, would set up a system of advance service credits that employees could purchase toward retirement.
It would allow workers with 25 years of service to leave early and "buy" their remaining time to 30 years by contributing 8 percent of their annuity over the remaining years. The senators said their aim was to avoid mass government layoffs while providing a "workable vehicle" for early retirement.
However, that's not the way Corrine King, GERS board chairwoman, or Ira Mills, director of Management and Budget, saw it.
King rejected the bill for several reasons, the most important being funding. She said the government could not guarantee the $15 million the bill proposes to use to finance the program. The money is to come from the government's $300 million bond issue.
She also objected to a provision excluding teachers, police officers and other essential workers from the program, calling it "unconstitutional." The bill would only cover executive branch employees.
Mills read from a nine-page document criticizing the bill almost in its entirety. He said the money cannot be paid directly to GERS because of certain "covenants" in the bond issue. He also called the proposal "unconstitutional" and "irrational," citing retirement dates in it that could not possibly be met.
Mills said that since the bill would cause positions to be closed permanently upon retirement, vital jobs would be eliminated, and that a provision banning the government from contracting with former government employees could prevent many workers from sharing their expertise in the private sector and the government from farming out more operations to the private sector.
Liburd replied that the bill was a "working document." Cole accused Mills of "sabotaging" the proposal.
But the real fireworks started later when Mills revealed that he had a retirement plan of his own that he had just finishing drafting. He said his plan would cost less, about $9 million, and was more viable.
The bill's sponsors seemed astonished, and demanded copies. Mills said he had just completed the final draft Thursday.
Cole questioned how he could have done that when they all had spent the day together meeting with the governor. Mills said he had "dictated" the final draft at that time.
Jones accused Mills of "highjacking" their bill at the "11th hour," and in an evening already filled with sparring between Mills and Cole, Cole accused Mills of disrespect and of playing politics. For the second time in the evening, Committee Chair Gregory Bennerson had to use his gavel to bring order.
Two more committee hearings are scheduled on the proposal, one at 6 p.m. Friday on St. John and another at 6 p.m. Monday on St. Croix. Mills promised to have his proposal with him Friday in St. John.