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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, June 18, 2024


Aug. 4, 2001 – Sen. Vargrave Richards has joined forces with Joseph Thomas Jr., Water and Power Authority executive director, and Laurence Bryan, Government Employees Retirement System administrator, in opposing a bill sponsored by Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen that would extend early-retirement benefits to certain WAPA hazardous duty employees.
According to a release Saturday from Richards' office, the senator has written to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull asking him to "carefully and methodically scrutinize GERS official written testimony" before making a decision on the bill, one of a multitude awaiting Turnbull's approval or veto by Tuesday.
"It is clear," Richards wrote Turnbull, "that GERS administrators, as well as WAPA chief Thomas, agree that the added burden would 'bankrupt' the system and cause a chain reaction of rate increases."
Bryan and other GERS officials have claimed the legislation lays the way for possible "bankruptcy" of the retirement system in years to come. At the most recent WAPA board meeting, Thomas said that no other utility "in the civilized world has that kind of plan. It will have a rate impact." Terming the legislation "a mistake we'll all pay for," he added, "The bill has good intentions without a good sense of accounting."
Richards further stated in his letter to the governor, "Consideration should first be given to the development of a plan, as Bryan urges, to 'repatriate [to] GERS the outstanding delinquent debt owed by the government to GERS'." The senator said an impact study is essential "before advancing legislation of this magnitude." He said the governor should work with GERS and the Legislature to "restructure the system so that it is equitable to all."
Saying he is "very sensitive to the WAPA employees working in hazardous positions," Richards said that, nevertheless, the bill as now worded would "further exacerbate the already precarious position of the GERS."

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