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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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STALLED RULES COMMITTEE CAPS RETIREES SALARIES

The Senate Committee on Rules approved three leases and one bill Wednesday, but cut short its lengthy agenda because it could only maintain a quorom for about an hour.
The meeting was adjourned shortly after 11:30 a.m., when Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd's departure left the committee with only three senators, which is not enough to vote legally on legislation.
Committee Chair Sen. Anne Golden, Senate President Vargrave Richards, and Sen. Adelbert Bryan were the other three members present. Sens. Gregory Bennerson, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Judy Gomez were absent.
Before stalling, however, the Committee gave a favorable recommendation to Bryan's bill capping the salary of government retirees rehired by the government at $30,000.
"We now have retirees receiving retirement benefits, social security benefits and salaries up to 50 and $60,000 a year and then we tell our children and the young people that you are our future," Bryan said. "But when they return from school and college they find individuals that have retired 10 years ago, who left service after lucrative salaries and good careers, are back in the system doing some of the same jobs… and we are telling our children we don't have jobs for them to return to."
Bryan's bill was motivated by the fact that the government often rehires employees who were making large salaries previously.
"But hardly any of those cases you would find the government hiring retirees whose salaries were $15,000 or $20,000. It's always the case, it's retirees who were making $50, $60, sometimes $80,000" Bryan said. "When person decides to retire they retire on their own volition. There's no forced retirement in the government of the Virgin Islands. You can remain working until you die at a desk or die behind the wheel or die anywhere on the job."
Richards, who voted against the bill, said the government should not be prevented from rehiring talented and experienced retirees.
"While the intent is fine, I have questions about whether we will be creating a brain void, a leadership void in the government of the Virgin Islands," Richards said.
"We've had several early retirements that led to a reduction of people from the particular jobs that they had spent many years in and what happened was it created a void, a void meaning that you didn't have the people trained, one; developed, two; to take on the task of running the commissionership or the supervisorship," Richards said.
Sen. Lorraine Berry, not a member of the committee, also spoke against the measure.
"I believe there are places in this government for all people. There are people who are young, people who are middle-aged, and people who are older people who have a lot to contribute to this government," Berry said. "I think we need to have a balance in government with wisdom and youth."
Petrus, however, said the if retirees are discouraged from returning to government service, they will better train their replacements.
"What has happened to us historically is that people who are in leadership positions, who are in positions of power, who are in positions of influence, they have a problem training people. They usually herd the knowledge, they isolate themselves so that there could be a great reliance on them," Petrus said.
"If a retiree… cannot be there, he or she should have been training someone coming up the ranks prior to, or years, before their retirement," Petrus said.
Liburd, who also supported the bill, said the government should keep positions open for young people.
"It sends a message that yes, we thank you for your service, but we have some new minds and we need to create some of these new minds," Liburd said.
Golden, who did not speak, also voted in favor of the bill.
Bryan said he didn't think the cap would have a significant impact on rehired retirees' ability to support themselves.
"Any retirees who have made over $30,000 before they retire can come back and still live within their means with an additional $30,000," he said.
The Committee also approved three leases between the V.I. Port Authority and American Airlines, Robert Lynch Trucking (on St. Croix) and Air Center Helicopters.
One major bill the committee could not act on was the Enterprise Zone Act, which would create an economic revitalization program for blighted urban areas by offering tax incentives to small businesses and investors.
The committee was also prevented from acting on bills that would allow limited public service employment for prison inmates and slightly expand the justifiable use of force.

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