Senate sets session on retro withholdings

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ST. THOMAS - A Senate session to consider a bill to repay the 8 percent employee retirement contribution withheld from the 2010 retro payments has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday.

Last week, Sen. Alicia Hansen gathered nine senators' signatures to call the session with the purpose to consider the bill. The petition asked to call the session at 3 p.m. today.

On Monday, Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone sent a letter to Hansen informing her that he would be traveling to Washington today for an Interior Department briefing and offered to schedule the session Monday.

"Senator Malone and I spoke about the importance of this bill, and he relayed to me that he would like to be present for the vote on it," Hansen said. "As he is also a sponsor of the bill, I certainly respect that."

Between 1989 and 2002, the government negotiated salary increases that never were honored for some collective bargaining units. In 2007, legislation established the Retroactive Wage Commission to determine exactly who was owed how much.

The commission determined 10,718 past and present government employees were owed $219 million in retro pay.

With only $45 million available, each individual received 16.7 percent of the total amount owed to them.

When the retro payments were made to the retirees, the checks were disbursed with Medicare, Social Security and 8 percent for the employee's contribution to GERS being withheld.

The amount of money withheld from retirees' retroactive payments, as an employee pension contribution, is about $1.5 million, according to Austin Nibbs, administrator of the Government Employees' Retirement System.

He said the total contributions withheld from all the retro checks issued in 2010, for both active and retired employees, was $7.1 million.

The group Government Retirees United for Fairness, formed in October, has demanded that the 8 percent employee contribution on the retro checks be returned to retirees.

Nibbs said he agrees with the retirees, but he has said the law restricts him from repaying the money.

The senators who signed the petition to hold the session are: Donald Cole, Judi Buckley, Kenneth Gittens, Hansen, Myron Jackson, Clarence Payne III, Tregenza Roach, Sammuel Sanes and Janette Millin Young.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email

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