Once again it is campaign season in the Virgin Islands and elected officials are asking for another two years in office. A major issue both the legislative and executive branches have avoided is the need to reform the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) and enact and implement legislation to address the system's shortfalls.
Each year the administrator of GERS, on the instruction of the Board of Trustees, presents a report to the Legislature. The general theme of this year's presentation by Lawrence Bryan on July 15th was no different than that of his previous presentations. In his presentation, he outlined a long list of continued financial ills that plague the system: problems that, over time, will plunge the system into insolvency. The approximately 10,000 active members and 6,000 current retirees and their families will then face personal financial disaster that will have a major impact on the total Virgin Islands community.
Bryan must feel a little frustrated warning of the inevitable, only to be ignored. And what have past legislatures done about these warnings? Mostly pay lip service to the problem rather than present any meaningful long-term solutions. Yes, working for meaningful reform of the retirement system is a long and slow process and it involves making some very difficult political choices – choices that we have allowed our politicians to avoid for too many years.
There is a cost for all of us to pay to reform the system. But the cost of reforming the system will be substantially less than the cost of the havoc its failure will cause.
During the past few years, the Advocates for the Preservation of the Retirement System have met with administrative staff of GERS, members of the GERS Board of Trustees, and members of the legislative and executive branches to monitor the progress of the system and of legislation to return the system to financial health.
As residents, taxpayers, and voters, we must tell our elected officials and candidates for office that the time for action is overdue and that we expect them to take action to save the retirement system now.
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