The newly released GERS reform bill (see "First GERS reform bill in 44 years surfaces") does little to change a structure that protects the generous retirement for the governor, lieutenant governor, members of the Legislature and territorial judges. Special legislation has already guaranteed funds to cover their retirement.
Remember the "Golden Rule"; those with the "gold" pass and sign legislation, which in this case protects the lawmakers. The GERS membership, which includes teachers, police officers and all other government workers, finds little reassurance that the bill protects their retirement.
Various reports state that the Virgin Islands government owes GERS somewhere between $750 million and almost a billion dollars. This debt jeopardizes the stability of the GERS. If the government were to file for bankruptcy, GERS would have to be insolvent. The possibility that the government may even attempt to "borrow" GERS funds has been mentioned as a possible way to meet payroll.
Newer employees are footing the bill for payments to retirees, a sum that totals far more than the current income to GERS. This is the path to bankruptcy that is being followed by the Democratic Party. This will lead to the same result for the GERS in 12 to 15 years. Last year, when it was revealed that his chauffeur was making $65,000 a year, our Democratic governor justified the amount, saying that it will help increase his retirement.
Who pays for such favored treatment? We, the people do. One day retirees will find the checks from GERS will bounce. How can this happen? Continued apathy on the part of the retirees, government workers and the voting public.
Warner Riviere, a member of the Republican Party, submitted a proposal to the GERS several years ago outlining a structure that would have avoided calamity. Receipt of the proposal was not even acknowledged. Reuben Fenton, president of the St. Croix branch of the Republican Party, urges all government employees, active and retired, to attend the public hearings on the new bill to protect retirement benefits in the future.
James M. Oliver
Chair, Republican Party of the V.I.
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