Is anyone at home? Is anyone listening? Can anyone understand what is happening with the Government Employees Retirement System fiscal health? Does anyone really care?
The GERS Board has gone on record, several times, to warn the public about the declining health of the system. Legislation has been proposed to the 23rd Legislature of the Virgin Islands and subsequent legislatures; yet the proposed legislation which is to help the system has not seen the light of day. From what I saw, the legislation calls for increased contributions from current and future government employees who are members of the GERS as well as from the Government of the Virgin Islands. The legislation calls for a mere two percent increase from employees and an increase from the Government.
Legislators seem to be afraid to enact this measure fearing that if they did so, the government employees will not vote for them. But this is folly, since the inaction by the Legislature could lead to a worse result when the GERS declares that it is bankrupt and the same employees who resist today would have nothing when they are ready for retirement. It seems that a broke and bankrupt system which announces that it cannot authorize paychecks to retirees will be the only way to wake up members of the Legislature.
Retirees must now rise up in righteous indignation and demand that the 26th Legislature take action and to quit procrastinating and pass GERS reform legislation. They must pass a bill without special provisions which will benefit a few; pass a measure as submitted by the GERS. The general welfare of the retirees must be the basis of the reform legislation.
Any retirement system which pays out more than it is taking in is destined to become bankrupt in short order. The system is heading for a $1 billion unfunded liability very shortly and this is reflective of a huge problem which will have to be addressed sooner rather than later.
If some one is at home, please answer the call to fix the system? It is broken.
Eric E. Dawson
Fairfax, Va. 22032
Editor's note: Eric Dawson is a former V.I. Commissioner of the Economic Development and Agriculture Department.
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