The Senate approved Wednesday one of three bonding bills requested by Gov. John deJongh Jr., increasing previously approved borrowing from $120 million to $130 million and allocating the additional $10 million for Workers Compensation’s liabilities for claims and provider services.
Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan testified the Workers Compensation program is more than $20 million in arrears. The debt really belongs to employers, who have not been required to fully pay into the system for some years now, Bryan testified, saying that at some point the Senate may have to begin levying more from employers into the system.
Votes on the other two items were postponed due to an incoming tropical storm. The remainder of the anticipated bond revenues would be allocated with:
- $30 million for general operating expenses for the current Fiscal Year 2012;
- $35 million for general operating expenses for FY13;
- $25 million for general operating expenses for FY14;
- $15 million for the government's bills to the V.I. Water and Power Authority;
- and $15 million for tax refunds.
Among other measures approved Wednesday were bills:
- making sexual relations between prison inmates and employees or vendors a felony;
- making cell phones and laptops "dangerous prison contraband" and making it a felony to provide those items to a prisoner;
- increasing fines and clarifying definitions and liability for underage drinking and sale of alcohol to minors;
- and clarifying the rules for apprenticeship programs in the territory.