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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, February 23, 2024


Four senators — three from St. Croix and Sen. at-large Almando "Rocky" Liburd — want the Prosser deal back on the table.
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen has asked the Legislature's attorneys to draft a bill incorporating the deal negotiated by St. Croix businessman Jeffrey Prosser and top Turnbull administration officials. Prosser announced last week that he had withdrawn the land-for-tax break deal.
But Hansen said she wants "open, honest debate on this issue, without personal interest and rivalries attached to the agenda."
Sens. Anne Golden and Liburd said in a joint statement that they find it "unconscionable" that the V.I. government failed to negotiate a "middle ground" with Prosser for 30 years of tax breaks on his Innovative Communications Corp. in exchange for 1,000 acres of land at Carambola, which Prosser now says he will not buy.
And Sen. Gregory Bennerson said Monday he too favors reviving and revising the Prosser deal as "the possible springboard for the economic development of St. Croix," according to Tuesday's Independent.
The Prosser deal, announced by the Daily News, which Prosser owns, on April 1 as a "bailout of the V.I. government," drew criticism from some labor leaders, who said their members wanted money, not land, and from a handful of St. Thomas senators, among others.
Hansen said she was surprised that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull "would negotiate a proposal and then wait to see which way the wind blows before stepping out to defend what he helped to formulate on behalf of the people."
In withdrawing his offer, Prosser mentioned publicly for the first time a plan by government and labor to float a $1 billion bond to repay the government's debts, including the $200 million in retroactive wages owed to government workers that Prosser had proposed to pay off with land on St. Croix.
The release from Golden and Liburd said they would not support any "measure to float a
billion-dollar bond" that would only "drive us deeper in debt."
Golden, in impassioned remarks broadcast on Radio One, said she "would not rest" until the Prosser deal is reconsidered. She said criticism of the deal is "off-base," according to Tuesday's Independent, which said Golden "concedes she is a personal friend of Prosser's."
Government House officials have remained mum on the deal from the beginning, making no statements and releasing no documents spelling out the agreement.
However, the administration called — and sometimes cancelled — several meetings to
discuss the deal. One meeting last week with labor resulted in an across-the-board "no" from union leaders, and led to Prosser's withdrawal the next day.
Golden's statement said, "We must focus on expanding the government's tax base by attracting new investors and industries. We desperately need to create new jobs in order to generate new revenues for the government
treasury. The 'Prosser Deal' is the only eminently tangible prospect that could potentially generate those critically needed revenues."
The statement suggested that Turnbull, the leadership of the 23rd Legislature, members of the Chambers of Commerce and local labor
leaders should ask Prosser to reconsider his offer.
The Independent is publishing the proposed "Prosser bailout" bill in its Tuesday and Wednesday editions.

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