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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 21, 2024


Despite all 15 senators, Gov. Charles Turnbull and his advisers gathering Thursday to try to stave off a strike by teachers, the only result of the meeting was a decision to get together again Tuesday.
The meeting at Government House lasted all day and focused on ways to fund a contract for teachers so that they don’t carry out their threat to strike, said Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste. Also discussed was the government’s revenue picture in general.
"We didn’t come to anything conclusive," Baptiste said. "There are no easy solutions."
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen said that a number of proposals were discussed to pay teachers and other government employees, including Sen. David Jones’ idea to use the government's Insurance Guarantee Funds as collateral for a loan, Baptiste’s suggestion that the territory lobby the federal government for more support and her own plan to utilize interest from bond proceeds.
Hansen said interest from bonds issued by the government could generate some $60 million to help pay unionized government employees who are owed hundreds of millions of dollars in back pay. To access the money, she said the Senate would have to amend laws that authorized the bond sales.
Jn Baptiste said the Senate’s post auditor will meet with the governor’s financial advisers to discuss the proposals.
"They have to get together and iron out the differences," Jn Baptiste said.
Concerns about Jones’ proposal to use the insurance fund included the consequences of a hurricane or earthquake. The fund was set up to assist clients whose insurance companies go belly up and can't cover their claims.
In his proposed fiscal year 2001 budget, Turnbull had planned to use revenue generated from an increase in gross receipts taxes from 4 percent to 5 percent to fund teachers’ pay increases. The tax hike, however, is almost unanimously opposed by senators.
Senators’ opposition to the gross receipts tax increase will play havoc with the administration’s financial plan because it was slated to generate $20 million to $24 million to help fund salary increases for teachers. Along with the tax increase, teachers’ salaries are to be covered by employees paying half of their retirement and health plans and by the government’s collection of fees.
"Any way you look at it, someone will have to bear the brunt" of paying increases, Jn Baptiste said.

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