July 6, 2005 The Legislative Committee hearing held on Tuesday concerning the GERS legislation is encouraging and the multitudes who showed up to witness the testimony or to testify should be commended. It seems like an endless battle to convince legislators that the time to act has passed us by. The words, "unfunded liability" as they relate to the GERS seem to be a foreign language to legislators, and perhaps there are those legislators who don't understand what the words really mean. But above all, retirees must keep up the pressure to make certain that the proposed legislation moves from the respective committees to the Legislative Floor. I commend former Senate President Hugo Dennis who has tirelessly kept this issue to the forefront when others have remained silent.
The central government must appropriate annually, a certain sum earmarked for the GERS to reduce the unfunded liability. Retirees should ask candidates for governor and the legislature in any election to submit written pledges to support the earmarking of funds annually for the off-set of the unfunded liability. This written pledge should include current office holders, since they, with the exception of the governor, will be seeking re-election.
The depth of the unfunded liability is huge ($898 million and quickly approaching $1 billion) and no other jurisdiction under the American flag would be allowed to continue in this fashion except that the legislators and the governor lack the political courage to do what is right. I realize that the huge sum owed by the government to the system is the product of long term neglect and that the problem cannot be solved with one appropriation, but it can be brought under control with consistent attention. I commend Senator Hill for his persistence on this subject matter, and I look forward to its fruition.
Editor's note: Eric Dawson is a former V.I. commissioner of the Economic Development and Agriculture Department, four-term member of the V. I. Legislature, (1973-1979; 1985-1987). He has also served as program manager for the U. S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Centers, Washington, D.C.
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