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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 29, 2024


Gov. Charles W. Turnbull on Tuesday night ordered government payroll checks delayed a week because there's not enough money to cover them.
The bi-weekly payroll checks for thousands of government workers were to have been issued Thursday, April 8. Instead, they will be delayed one week while the cash- starved government struggles to put enough money in its coffers to honor them.
Turnbull also announced he is calling the legislature into special session Thursday morning to authorize short-term borrowing necessary for the government to meet the next payroll, scheduled to be paid April 22.
An unusually somber Turnbull made his surprising announcement on radio shortly after 5 p.m., a few hours after he concluded a four-hour meeting with labor union heads at Government House.
Turnbull's statement lasted only six minutes and contained no mention of the proposal from local media and banking mogul Jeffrey Prosser to exchange land on St. Croix for more than $180 million owed in retroactive salary increases to current and retired government workers.
The governor did not take questions from assembled reporters in the Department of Education's Teleconference Center on St. Thomas. Instead, he introduced Tito Morales, president of the Central Labor Council, the umbrella organization of organized labor in the territory.
In his short remarks, Morales was unexpectedly kind toward Turnbull, saying the governor deserved credit for taking the union leaders into his confidence prior to the public announcement.
Morales neither endorsed nor criticized the governor's action.
Turnbull disclosed that as of March 31 there was only $2 million in the government's central fund, out of which the $13 million biweekly payroll comes. Collections since then have fallen approximately $5 million short of the amount needed, Turnbull said.
The governor said he has notified the Senate, Territorial Court and the University of the Virgin Islands that they too must delay paying their employees. He appealed to banks and other lenders to forgo penalties for government workers who cannot make payments on loans because of the delay in the checks.
"This is not a time for panic," Turnbull declared. It is, he said, a "call to action" because the territory and its people "can no longer put off" finding solutions to the fiscal crisis.

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