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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, August 14, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSt. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce Is in Disbelief at Senate Action

St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce Is in Disbelief at Senate Action

The Board of Directors of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce expressed disbelief and dismay at the recent approval by the Virgin Islands Legislature of Senator Alicia Hansen’s "giveaway" amendment of benefits to government employees. The measure, which passed with 14 yea votes on Sept. 26, allows any V.I. Government employee with five or more years of government service to take between one and two years off without pay but still receive full health insurance and pension contributions from the government. The leave can be for any purpose, and the employee is guaranteed the right to return to his or her employment without loss of seniority, provided the employee returns to work on or before Oct. 1, 2016.
Board President Sebastiano Paiewonsky-Cassinelli stated that the "Senate’s action is unconscionable and flies squarely in the face of our current fiscal situation. Everyone else in the community realizes that the government is facing a series of unprecedented financial crisis, except apparently the 14 men and women that voted for the measure. The senators are obviously disconnected from the economic reality the territory faces today and there is no sound rationale for this amendment. Unless, as I suspect, Senator Hansen and the others are trying to secure votes for the next election by giving away money that we do not have," he added.
Although the amendment is purported to be an extension of a portion of Act No. 7261, known as the Stabilization Act, it included new benefits not mentioned in the original bill passed in July of 2011. The addition of full health insurance and pension contributions, with the government paying both the employer contribution and the employees’ own contributions, will put an enormous strain on the government’s dwindling resources. "We really take exception to the amendment and the way it was wrongly characterized as a ‘housekeeping measure’ by Legislative Legal Counsel Augustin Ayala," reproached Mr. Tom Brunt, who also served on the Pension Reform Task Force. "Any action that extends a measure passed to avoid layoffs in 2011, but that now adds enormously expensive benefits, merits full public debate and analysis, not the blind eye of our senators," Brunt added "We urge Governor John P. deJongh Jr., to veto this measure and send it back to the Legislature for review and testimony. As representatives of the private sector that is just trying to survive in the current financial environment, we are appalled at the Senate’s recent approval of this measure."

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The Board of Directors of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce expressed disbelief and dismay at the recent approval by the Virgin Islands Legislature of Senator Alicia Hansen's "giveaway" amendment of benefits to government employees. The measure, which passed with 14 yea votes on Sept. 26, allows any V.I. Government employee with five or more years of government service to take between one and two years off without pay but still receive full health insurance and pension contributions from the government. The leave can be for any purpose, and the employee is guaranteed the right to return to his or her employment without loss of seniority, provided the employee returns to work on or before Oct. 1, 2016.
Board President Sebastiano Paiewonsky-Cassinelli stated that the "Senate's action is unconscionable and flies squarely in the face of our current fiscal situation. Everyone else in the community realizes that the government is facing a series of unprecedented financial crisis, except apparently the 14 men and women that voted for the measure. The senators are obviously disconnected from the economic reality the territory faces today and there is no sound rationale for this amendment. Unless, as I suspect, Senator Hansen and the others are trying to secure votes for the next election by giving away money that we do not have," he added.
Although the amendment is purported to be an extension of a portion of Act No. 7261, known as the Stabilization Act, it included new benefits not mentioned in the original bill passed in July of 2011. The addition of full health insurance and pension contributions, with the government paying both the employer contribution and the employees' own contributions, will put an enormous strain on the government's dwindling resources. "We really take exception to the amendment and the way it was wrongly characterized as a 'housekeeping measure' by Legislative Legal Counsel Augustin Ayala," reproached Mr. Tom Brunt, who also served on the Pension Reform Task Force. "Any action that extends a measure passed to avoid layoffs in 2011, but that now adds enormously expensive benefits, merits full public debate and analysis, not the blind eye of our senators," Brunt added "We urge Governor John P. deJongh Jr., to veto this measure and send it back to the Legislature for review and testimony. As representatives of the private sector that is just trying to survive in the current financial environment, we are appalled at the Senate’s recent approval of this measure."