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LAWMAKERS LEARN LITTLE MORE ABOUT SALARIES

Nov. 21, 2001 – On Nov. 13, top administration officials told the Senate they would have nothing to say about the governor's jacking up of the ceilings on salaries for top government officials until the governor took action on the issue. A week later, they were true to their word.
A dozen top government administrators sat in the Senate chambers on St. Thomas for about five hours Tuesday basically reiterating what they had said in the same place to the same people a week earlier.
Ira Mills, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said he had nothing new to add. "The governor has not yet concluded deliberations on exempt salaries," he said. "No one has received an increase."
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull issued two executive orders on Nov. 6 raising the salary caps for unclassified top management employees by about half, and things haven't been the same in the Senate since. The new caps are $97,000 for commissioners (up from $65,000), $92,000 for assistant commissioners, $87,000 for deputy commissioners and $70,000 for division directors.
The officials had said on Nov. 13 that it would be inappropriate to comment until the governor acts to implement raises. On Tuesday, chief labor negotiator Karen Andrews, Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull, Personnel director Joanne Barry, Attorney General Iver Stridiron and a host of other top brass echoed Mills's statement — and said no more.
With a bemused smile, Sen. Roosevelt David, said to the officials, "I don't imagine you have any information today that you didn't present last week. All of you are busy people, probably too busy for the redundancy here today." He got no argument from the group.
Stridiron repeated his week-earlier comments: "We all have to await the decision of the governor. We can stay here all day and the response will be the same."
Mills again said the prospective raises will come to about $7.3 million a year.
Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole commented that $7.3 million "is a lot of money. Will we be able to sustain these increases? This is serious business." Mills has said personnel cutbacks and capital project delays will result if government revenues are insufficient to support the increased salaries.
Sen. Vargrave Richards, pursuing the line of questioning he started last week, elicited from Andrews on Tuesday the statement that "at least 125 government workers make more than $65,000 a year" now. She identified them as five individuals in the hospitals, 20 in the police and fire services, 30 in the Justice Department, and 70 in the Education Department.
Most of the senators appeared surprised by what Andrews said. Richards said it was important that the public be aware of this.
Under questioning by Sen. Adelbert Bryan, Andrews and Barry said several commissioners and other top officials now make more than $65,000, but that they couldn't disclose individual salaries. With further nudging, four officials disclosed their own: Stridiron receives $85,000 and Mills, Andrews and Barry get $65,000 each.
One other salary the lawmakers managed to extricate from those present was that of Glen J. Smith, former St. Thomas-St. John teachers union leader, who since late September has been the Labor Department's director of labor relations. Smith was hired by new Labor Commissioner Cecil Benjamin, former St. Croix teachers union leader, at $60,000 a year.
Also Tuesday, Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. lashed back at the governor for Turnbull's recent statements calling the 24th Legislature the "most irresponsible" he has ever seen. "The entire majority takes offense," White said. "We want to be clear: Don't use those remarks when referring to the majority bloc."
Echoing White's comments, as is her wont, Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel then said the governor is "out of control." She referred to a recent verbal exchange between Turnbull and Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II on St. Croix.
Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste, who chairs the Education Committee, had choice remarks for Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds in light of the news that the territory's three accredited public high schools are about to lose that accreditation. Simmonds is "a terrible commissioner and she should not get a $32,000 raise," he said. "In fact, the governor needs to think seriously about getting rid of her."
On a motion by White, the Senate defeated a bill from the governor to change agency and department budgets from line item to lump sum. Lump-sum budgets would give the governor and the departments more flexibility in managing their money. The bill went straight to roll call without debate.

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Nov. 21, 2001 – On Nov. 13, top administration officials told the Senate they would have nothing to say about the governor's jacking up of the ceilings on salaries for top government officials until the governor took action on the issue. A week later, they were true to their word.
A dozen top government administrators sat in the Senate chambers on St. Thomas for about five hours Tuesday basically reiterating what they had said in the same place to the same people a week earlier.
Ira Mills, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said he had nothing new to add. "The governor has not yet concluded deliberations on exempt salaries," he said. "No one has received an increase."
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull issued two executive orders on Nov. 6 raising the salary caps for unclassified top management employees by about half, and things haven't been the same in the Senate since. The new caps are $97,000 for commissioners (up from $65,000), $92,000 for assistant commissioners, $87,000 for deputy commissioners and $70,000 for division directors.
The officials had said on Nov. 13 that it would be inappropriate to comment until the governor acts to implement raises. On Tuesday, chief labor negotiator Karen Andrews, Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull, Personnel director Joanne Barry, Attorney General Iver Stridiron and a host of other top brass echoed Mills's statement -- and said no more.
With a bemused smile, Sen. Roosevelt David, said to the officials, "I don't imagine you have any information today that you didn't present last week. All of you are busy people, probably too busy for the redundancy here today." He got no argument from the group.
Stridiron repeated his week-earlier comments: "We all have to await the decision of the governor. We can stay here all day and the response will be the same."
Mills again said the prospective raises will come to about $7.3 million a year.
Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole commented that $7.3 million "is a lot of money. Will we be able to sustain these increases? This is serious business." Mills has said personnel cutbacks and capital project delays will result if government revenues are insufficient to support the increased salaries.
Sen. Vargrave Richards, pursuing the line of questioning he started last week, elicited from Andrews on Tuesday the statement that "at least 125 government workers make more than $65,000 a year" now. She identified them as five individuals in the hospitals, 20 in the police and fire services, 30 in the Justice Department, and 70 in the Education Department.
Most of the senators appeared surprised by what Andrews said. Richards said it was important that the public be aware of this.
Under questioning by Sen. Adelbert Bryan, Andrews and Barry said several commissioners and other top officials now make more than $65,000, but that they couldn't disclose individual salaries. With further nudging, four officials disclosed their own: Stridiron receives $85,000 and Mills, Andrews and Barry get $65,000 each.
One other salary the lawmakers managed to extricate from those present was that of Glen J. Smith, former St. Thomas-St. John teachers union leader, who since late September has been the Labor Department's director of labor relations. Smith was hired by new Labor Commissioner Cecil Benjamin, former St. Croix teachers union leader, at $60,000 a year.
Also Tuesday, Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. lashed back at the governor for Turnbull's recent statements calling the 24th Legislature the "most irresponsible" he has ever seen. "The entire majority takes offense," White said. "We want to be clear: Don't use those remarks when referring to the majority bloc."
Echoing White's comments, as is her wont, Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel then said the governor is "out of control." She referred to a recent verbal exchange between Turnbull and Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II on St. Croix.
Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste, who chairs the Education Committee, had choice remarks for Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds in light of the news that the territory's three accredited public high schools are about to lose that accreditation. Simmonds is "a terrible commissioner and she should not get a $32,000 raise," he said. "In fact, the governor needs to think seriously about getting rid of her."
On a motion by White, the Senate defeated a bill from the governor to change agency and department budgets from line item to lump sum. Lump-sum budgets would give the governor and the departments more flexibility in managing their money. The bill went straight to roll call without debate.