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Cruz Bay
Thursday, July 18, 2024


"It's going to be rough Friday" at Gov. Charles Turnbull's special session of the Legislature. The words were Sen. Anne Golden's, but the sentiment seems to be shared by many of her colleagues who aren't happy about being asked to appropriate retirement funds for governors and judges when they recently had to forgo an increase in benefits for legislators.
As the administration explains it, the governor is only asking for funding for existing obligations. But politically the timing is bad.
Several senators declared in Monday's session that they will not attend, Golden said. Although she indicated she would attend, she added, "He needs to pull that thing back."
Turnbull is asking the Legislature to appropriate $2.9 million from the interest earned on bond proceeds to the Elected Governors and Lieutenant Governors Retirement Fund and to the Judges Pension Fund.
Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole predicted a feeding frenzy as senators attempt to tap into the same funding source. He said when he tried last fall to use interest from bond revenues for public schools, the administration's position was that such an appropriation would compromise the bonds.
Turnbull aide James O'Bryan said Thursday that the government has been paying retirees who should be paid from the special pension funds directly from the General Fund instead. There hasn't been an appropriation to the pension funds since "the early '90s."
Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull stopped making the payments from the General Fund a couple of months ago after the Legislature chastised her for using General Fund monies for other obligations that were to be paid from special appropriations, O'Bryan said.
He said recipients have missed four pay periods. They are paid every two weeks.
Those going without are former Govs. Juan Luis, Alexander Farrelly and Roy Schneider; former Lt. Govs. Derek Hodge and Kenneth Mapp; and former Territorial Court Judges Eileen Petersen, Henry Feuerzeig and Verne Hodge, according to O'Bryan.
The Judges Pension Fund dates back to the late 1970s, but covers only judges sitting at that time. The Governors Retirement Fund was passed shortly after the 1990 election, O'Bryan said. In 1993, it was expanded to include lieutenant governors. There is no provision in this law for widowed spouses of retired governors or lieutenant governors.
Under the act, retired governors receive 40 percent of their $80,000 salary after one full term and 80 percent after two terms, O'Bryan said. There is no payment for a partial term. The same applies to lieutenant governors, but their salary is $75,000.
Judges with 20 years of service are paid the full salary — 100,000, or $110,000 for the presiding judge — under the retirement measure that covers judges who were on the bench in 1976.

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