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The Challenge for the Legislature

Dear Source:
I visited the 28th. Legislature at the Capitol Building, in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, today March 5, 2009. The Committee on Financial Services Infrastructure and Consumer Affairs was holding a hearing on planned and in progress infrastructures. They received testimony of from Debra E. Gottlieb, Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Testifying also was the Commissioner of Public Works, Darryl A. Smalls and members of his team. The portion of the session that I witness I found very interesting, with Senators as usual coming and going from the chamber.
At one point Chairman of the committee, Senator Neville A. James, asked Commissioner Smalls about the need for more engineers and Commissioner Smalls indicated that he has a difficult time recruiting engineers because of the extremely low salary range. It was stated that the starting salary for an engineer in Public Works was $40,000.00. The Assistant Commissioner salary is $90,000 but an engineer on the panel who is on contract was paid $149,000.00. The senators reacted with incredibility upon hearing the low salary for an engineer. One commented "my daughter is studying to be a civil engineer she cannot work for that salary after my investment in her studies; she cannot come to work for that".
I find the senator reaction to the low salary of engineers to be disingenuous because they know of the pay scale in government. It has been brought to their attention on various occasions, they have promised to do something about it and have not done so. To me that is just typical of our politicians, they believe they can fool the people most of the time because of their short memory. I believe from before the 25th. Legislature several senators talked about upgrading the professional pay scale in the government to attract qualified natives to return home. One would think if they were sincere and honest something would have been done to address that anomaly long ago. It falls within the legislature function to help devise a realistic pay scale for government personnel not only to look out for themselves and the top management of the executive branch but all public servants.
If these senators are sincere they would start gathering information on how to best revamp the pay scale for government workers and not be lead by unions dictating compensation just for their members in a patchwork fashion. We need a comprehensive revamping of the government personnel laws to include a uniform pay scale throughout the government. All persons doing the same class of service should be paid equally to begin. Increases should be based on performance and not on union negotiation. We need order and equity in government services, not favoritism or union's blackmail.
J. J. Estemac, CCBG
St. Thomas

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