The excitement and joy over the announcement of the repayment of the illegal 8% salary reduction to government workers is being replaced with despair and anger. That announcement also noted that the returned money will not only include payroll deductions — except for GERS payments — but that recipients will be forced to report the repayment of the 8% salary reduction as taxable income for the upcoming tax year.
Additionally, recipients are receiving no added interest for the 8 years the salaries were withheld, although interest was accrued over the 8 years it was withheld! If the shoe was on the other foot, the V.I. government would have charged us late payment fees monthly! This, in essence, taxes government employees and retirees twice, with retirees receiving an additional blow of an expected 25% reduction in benefits starting 2022. Many individuals expecting a tax return will probably have to pay additional taxes as a result of being placed in a higher tax bracket than usual.
With all the federal funds flowing into the government coffers lately, why is there such a need to double tax government employees and retirees, and attempting to soften the blow by telling the public the money siphoned from the returned salaries via payroll taxes is needed to fix roads. How dumb, deaf and blind are we? We are in receipt of FEMA funds for mitigation projects post Hurricanes Irma and Maria, to include road repair, as well as COVID-19 relief funding. Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. has exclaimed that we, the people of the Virgin Islands, have so much money in the coffers he doesn’t know how to spend it all.
Legislation has been passed in the 34th Legislature to repair First Avenue, Black Point Road, Donkey Hill to Antilles School and Leonardo Trotman Drive, to name a few road projects already funded. What happened to the road tax collected at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for every registered vehicle in the Virgin Islands, fuel taxes and federal highway funding received to this point?
Consumer prices are expected to rise even further as the cost of shipping and fuel are expected to increase in the upcoming months. This could have been an opportunity for the government to exemplify officials to exemplify their care and compassion for their constituents and ease the burden of current government employees and, more importantly retirees, as we prepare to experience higher prices on commodities and services across the board. The money being deducted in taxes will be more detrimental to retirees, as they are already expecting a reduction in monthly benefits next year.
Surviving and enduring the tribulations of recovering from two hurricanes, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic has been trying on everyone in the Virgin Islands. For V.I. government employees and retirees this has been exaggerated with an 8% salary reduction. Returning years of withheld salary with payroll taxes deducted, then having to report the repayment as taxable income next year when the V.I. government claims to have ample funds is either callously greedy or simply evil! Where is the compassion for us?
We’ll wait for the next election cycle to hear you congratulate yourself on giving us what was rightfully ours, taxing the repayment via payroll deductions, then requiring recipients to add the payment as taxable income next year.
— Andre Malone, St. Thomas