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Here’s a Recap of the VI Consortium-WTJX Democratic Forum

Breaking News / Featured / News / Politics / Top Stories / Virgin Islands / July 18, 2018


Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor faced questions that delved into their future plans to confront the territory’s major challenges during a forum jointly sponsored by WTJX-TV Channel 12 and the Virgin Islands Consortium Tuesday night.

The three teams fielded questions from Consortium Founder and President Ernice Gilbert at WTJX’s St. Croix studio. Candidates for lieutenant governor had 45 minutes to give responses while the gubernatorial candidates had about an hour.

Below is a recap of the gubernatorial candidates’ responses on major topics including the Government Employees’ Retirement System, youth and teacher retention, healthcare and crime.

GERS Proposals


The Government Employees’ Retirement System currently faces an unfunded liability of about $4 billion. The public pension system has been projected to collapse by 2023.

Albert Bryan and Tregenza Roach:

  • Suggest four funding sources to cover the unfunded liability:
    • A new rum distillery
    • Internet and sports gaming
    • A cannabis registry
    • Correcting rum cover-over calculations
  • Say their research has included two townhall meetings on St. Thomas and St. Croix and submitting proposals to GERS employees and retiree groups on both islands for commentary
  • Say their plan makes provision for current retirees and for current workers to be made “whole” even though the current workers may have to collect at a lesser rate
  • Suggest giving new workers the option of a 401K plan that they can borrow from to pay for a home or higher education in addition to an annuity that they would receive upon retirement

Allison Petrus and Sammuel Sanes:

  • Say their strategy is to follow the law by:
    • Paying $7 million into the system annually from the central government
    • Paying into the system weekly from the gross payroll
  • Suggest that the current pension model transitions to something similar to a 401K
  • Suggest a new rum distillery*

*Mr. Petrus gave this suggestion after another candidate, Mr. Bryan, brought it up as a possible solution for the unfunded liability during the democratic forum. His answer also came after being pressed by the moderator, Ernice Gilbert, for a specific plan. It’s important to note, however, that Mr. Bryan had the first opportunity to respond to the question.

Angel Dawson and Marise James:

  • Suggest “further division” within GERS beyond tier 1 and tier 2
  • Suggest a model similar to a 401K
  • Say that in an effort to salvage the system, there may be a period of time where employees’ contributions won’t be matched but whatever they do contribute will be theirs.
  • Suggest growing the V.I. economy so the tax base can sustain additional contributions to GERS

Proposals to Retain Educators and Educated Youth

Albert Bryan and Tregenza Roach:

  • Suggest using technology in schools
  • Suggest higher pay for teachers
  • Encourage cutting teachers who are underperforming
  • Suggest incentives for teachers to own homes and purchase land
  • Suggest youth exposure to diverse careers

Allison Petrus and Sammuel Sanes:

  • Suggest creating a teacher training track for high school juniors and seniors and offering participants a 4-year scholarship to study education at the University of the Virgin Islands
    • Scholarship recipients would have to commit to five years of service in the territory
  • Say their administration will focus on younger children between pre-K and sixth grade and making sure they can read on grade level
  • Suggest higher pay for teachers

Angel Dawson and Marise James:

  • Suggest rebuilding better schools
  • Suggest fostering “vibrant” vocational and technical programs
  • Suggest higher pay for teachers
  • Suggest that UVI “ramp up” a better educational program

Healthcare Proposals

Albert Bryan and Tregenza Roach:

  • Support public health education to prevent chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes
  • Support incorporating healthier meals in schools
  • Suggest optimizing the funds the government spends on insurance and the hospital budgets
    • Suggest a system where the private sector can be incorporated to provide basic care
  • Support partnerships with renowned hospitals such as Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic to boost residents’ confidence in the system

Allison Petrus and Sammuel Sanes:

  • Say the hospital needs to work on getting outstanding monies owed for rendered services
  • Suggest partnerships with renowned hospitals such as Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic*

*Mr. Petrus gave this suggestion after another candidate, Mr. Bryan, had already mentioned it. It’s important to note, however, that Mr. Bryan had the first opportunity to respond to the question.

Angel Dawson and Marise James:

  • Support UVI’s medical school project
  • Say there is a need for “world-class” healthcare in the territory to attract retirees

Plans to Combat Crime

Albert Bryan and Tregenza Roach:

  • Support a rehabilitative process as opposed to a purely punitive process for prisoners, many of which have disabilities, Mr. Brian said
  • Say there’s a need to attack the high school drop-out rate
  • Believe in speeding up court processes
  • Support using technology to efficiently allocate law enforcement officers’ resources

Allison Petrus and Sammuel Sanes:

  • Believe in prevention in the form of education as a way to curtail crime
  • Support year-round programs to engage young people
  • Say morale within the police force needs to be improved
  • Say we need more technology and camera surveillance to aid in the fight against crime

Angel Dawson and Marise James:

  • Support regular police patrols where officers physically walk the streets
  • Say there’s a need for more substations across the territory
  • Believe in holding offenders accountable for “small infractions” (like noise disturbances) to avoid stepping stones to larger infractions
  • Support after-school programs to keep youth engaged

July 18, 2018

This summary was last updated at 2:56 p.m.

Feature Image: Gubernatorial candidates share a hug right after the forum despite previously exchanged differences of opinion. (Credit: Wyndi Ambrose, VIC)

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Wyndi Ambrose
"Please feel free to contact me with news tips or corrections at the following email address: [email protected] . Both tips and corrections will be considered based on journalism standards of newsworthiness and ethics. Telling your stories in the best and most accurate way is important to me."

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