I would like to take this opportunity to respond to Management and Budget director Ira Mills' request that anyone with a better solution present it. (See "Turnbull aides defend using Guaranty money".)
This is a daunting task considering the administration refuses to open its books to the public or even the Senate. This government refuses to abide by the Sunshine Law and constantly fights any attempts by the public to get access to information, despite the fact that these officials are paid to represent the very same people who are denied access to these records. As a result of this lack of transparency, I can only offer suggestions and not a complete replacement for the lame plan (a.k.a. Special Interests Plan) put forward by the Economic Recovery Team.
My suggestions are as follows:
1. Start obeying the laws of the Virgin Islands.
2. Start accepting ideas offered from other groups in the numerous meetings held since this "fiscal crisis" began. The private sector, labor leaders, minority senators and many others have offered suggestions that this government refuses to accept.
3. Request that all Economic Development Commission beneficiaries pay 10 percent tax, and change the law so that a beneficiary's tax break is reduced by 10 percent each successive application.
4. Roll back the lucrative salary increases granted last year.
5. Stop paying rent to your cronies and instead utilize that money to renovate any government-owned structures in need of repairs. Move all offices to government-owned property. Utilize all available Government House space.
6. Park up all government-owned vehicles by 5 p.m. every day with the exception of the following: fire trucks, fire chief's vehicle, police cars, V.I. marshals' vehicles (until true electronic monitoring of criminals is established), ambulances and Public Works and Housing Authority maintenance trucks (emergencies only). Auction off most of the remaining government-owned vehicles starting with those of the Senate, the commissioners, and almost all other executive branch employees.
Why does the V.I. Lottery need vehicles? Do they deliver lottery tickets? If employees that make less than $20,000 a year have to provide their own transportation to and from work, there is absolutely no need for individuals making over $60,000 a year to be provided with transportation.
7. Work with the Senate to enact legislation eliminating all unclassified positions. Create legitimate positions for the few job duties eliminated. Eliminate the NOPA (notice of personnel action) process.
8. Terminate all cellular phone contracts with the exception of the governor, lieutenant governor, Fire Service director, fire chief and Police commissioner.
9. Sign and enforce an executive order instructing all commissioners to apply for and expend all federal funding available.
10. Work with the Senate to enact legislation for an elected attorney general with eight-year terms in an attempt to avoid the conflict of interest that currently exists. We have an attorney general who spends more time being a spokesman for the governor than prosecuting criminals. This contributes to our high crime rate and a waste of money prosecuting criminals who aren't convicted. This is a major contributor to the weak tourism market on St. Croix.
11. Work with the Senate to enact legislation calling for four-year senate terms. This will eliminate costs associated with an election every two years.
12. Work with the Senate to enact legislation for all government employees to contribute their full share to the Government Employees Retirement System. No one should be exempt from contributing, especially not the governor or senators. Also, pass a law preventing retirees who return to government service from collecting retirement benefits during their time of re-employment.
To close, one has to wonder whether the step increases, which were granted using a portion of the "$100 million tax wind," were used as a ploy to justify issuing raises to the top layers of government. Our government officials knew there was no way to finance those raises on a continuing basis; however, they covered up the issue to justify their own raises. Now that we are in a "fiscal crisis," they decide to cut the hours of government employees so that they themselves are not affected since they are on salary.
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