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Monday, May 29, 2023
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Senate Slips In Pension Reform

Government employees taking early retirement who want larger pensions than the number of years worked will have to pay the V.I. Government Employee Retirement System enough to actually cover their increased pension, if legislation attached to a larger omnibus bill Friday becomes law.

Sen. Clifford Graham proposed the measure as one of many nongermane amendments to a bill appropriating $41 million in funds available from the partial settlement of the South Shore NRD litigation over environmental cleanup on St. Croix and putting all of it into the General Fund. (See Related Links below)

The measure amends existing law that reads GERS "may" take the costs of the pension into account, so it reads GERS "must" take those costs into account, and GERS is to give out "no benefit unless there is a demonstration of sustainable, sound actuarial basis" for it.

Graham said the amendment "seeks to clean up some language in the GERS title so that increases without a funding source will not happen in the future. That is part of the reason for the predicament we are in today," he said.

Voting for the amendment were Graham, Sens. Donald Cole, Diane Capehart, Myron Jackson, Shawn-Michael Malone, Sammuel Sanes and Janette Millin Young. Voting no were Sens. Kenneth Gittens, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Clarence Payne and Tregenza Roach. Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly abstained. Sens. Craig Barshinger and Judi Buckley were absent.

The V.I. Board of Technical Education will be moved out of the Department of Education and become a standalone agency, similar to the V.I. Board of Education, if an amendment from Cole is approved by the governor.

Another amendment from Cole adopted the most up-to-date language in the Uniform Plumbing Code, affecting solar hot water, swimming pools and hot tubs.

An amendment from Nelson carved out $50,000 from this year’s Legislature budget appropriation for the Youth Advisory Council.

An amendment from Rivera-O’Reilly specifying the University of the Virgin Islands may use funding set aside for its Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps to travel to Puerto Rico for ROTC related activities and recruiting.

Voting in favor of the bill as amended were Capehart, Cole, Gittens, Graham, Jackson, Malone, Payne and Sanes. Voting no were Hansen, Rivera-O’Reilly, Roach and Millin Young. Barshinger, Buckley and Nelson were absent.

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