Senate Loosens EDC Hiring Requirements

Companies receiving tax breaks through the territory’s Economic Development Commission will only have to hire five local employees, as opposed to the current 10, if a measure approved by Senators Wednesday as an amendment to an unrelated motorcycle license fee bill is signed into law.

Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone proposed the amendment, one of 18 attached to the bill.

"This amendment … is part of what we need to reform the EDC program to avoid further loss of financial service companies," Malone said, explaining that Puerto Rico recently reduced its requirement to four employees and that Economic Development Authority Executive Director Percival Clouden recommended this be done.

The amendment passed unanimously, with Sens. Craig Barshinger and Alvin Williams absent.

Another amendment, proposed by Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, reallocates $6 million remaining from a 2007 line of credit to go toward paying outstanding employer contributions into the Government Employees Retirement System. A number of retiree pensions have been held up because government contributions to the plan were not sufficient to match the employer/employee contribution ratio set in the law, so total pension contributions were insufficient to pay annuities at the level appropriate for the employees’ contributions.

Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson questioned whether the $6 million would be sufficient to cover the cost and to enable GERS to start making those pension payments. That question was not answered Wednesday but will likely be discussed when GERS appears before the Legislature on Friday to discuss its budget.

Other amendments:
– forbade members of governing boards and commissions from taking employment at the agencies they oversaw for at least a year after leaving their position;
– increased bont tick program funding;
– allowed the University of the Virgin Islands to become an electricity supplier, to enable it to enter into solar power production contracts at its campuses;
– increased the share of racino-based gambling tax revenues allocated to the V.I. Olympic Committee from 2 percent to 10 percent;
– and imposed an array of other, less financially significant measures.

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