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Rhetoric or Reform?


Dear Source:
Bill No. 27-0101, proposed by Governor John deJongh, and recently passed by the 27th Legislature, is a positive step to address the solvency of the Government Employees Retirement System. When enacted into law, it will increase the Government's share of contributions to the system by 3%, helping to reduce the growing unfunded liability.
However, passage of reform legislation is not enough. Laws currently on the books must be implemented and enforced. The Retirement System Reform Act of 2005 (Act No. 6794) was passed by the 26th Legislature and signed into law on November 2, 2005, yet many of its provisions have not been implemented. Recognizing that the System could not continue to provide benefits at the same level as it currently does, the Government passed a law that establishes a second tier retirement benefits program for employees who become members of the Government Employees Retirement System on or after October 1, 2005.
Since the passage of this Act, there has been much rhetoric but little action. Neither the Government of the Virgin Islands nor the Board of Trustees of GERS acted to establish Tier II and to implement all of the provisions of Act 6794. In fact, by delay and procrastination, they have been negligent in fulfilling their responsibilities to preserve the System's solvency.
The 26th Legislature ended its term with a lame duck session on December 29, 2006 during which it passed Act No. 6905, enhancing legislative pensions and opening the door to further government indebtedness.
Members of the Retirement System and the general public must hold government officials and the Board of Trustees accountable both for their actions and their inactions. Must a class action suit be filed to force the Government and the Retirement System to follow the law?
Leonard Smollett
St. Thomas

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