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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, April 20, 2024


Citing concern about details in the Prosser bill, the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce has set up a subcommittee to review the proposal.
Chamber President John deJongh said that while the Chamber supports investment, members have come out against the current proposal for a variety of reasons.
"One of the concerns is that the requirement having to do with the construction of the hotel is not a set requirement of the legislation," he said.
The Senate approved the proposal May 22 on an 8-7 vote. Under the terms, businessman Jeffrey Prosser, the sole owner of Innovative Communications Corp., is offering the government 1,000 acres of Carambola land and $14.3 million in capital-improvement projects in exchange for 30 years of tax breaks for all ICC companies and principals. The tax benefits are estimated to be worth from $180 million to $3.5 billion.
Chamber member Tom Brunt, who will head the subcommittee, said the first task is to gather as much information as possible about the proposal. He said Chamber members want to make sure the information they have received from media reports is complete and accurate.
"If the proposal is as reported, we think that the benefits to the territory are not significant with respect to the benefits that have been granted to the 10 corporations that are named in the bill as a recipient of a 30-year tax exemption," Brunt said.
Once the information has been gathered, an assesment will be made and the findings submitted to deJongh.
As it stands, Brunt said, the deal seems too open-ended and doesn't give enough in exchange for the potential tax benefits that ICC would gain.
"We think that it would, in essence, replace the Industrial Development Commission function of the government," he said. "We think that the ICC proposal for Carambola for the hotel is a good proposal and should be pursued, but it should be pursued independently of the other proposals that are contained in the Senate bill."
Another concern, he said, is Prosser's offer to exchange land in lieu of $200 million in retroactive pay owed to government employees.
"There seems to be little interest on the part of the government workforce that was supposed to benefit from the land swap transfer and that part of the deal doesn't seem to make sense to any of us," he said. "If the group that was supposed to benefit most from the proposal is against the proposal, we wonder why you would proceed."
The recently formed subcommittee plans to spend the next few days reviewing the deal.
Gov. Charles Turnbull has 10 days, which expire this week, to act on the bill. James O'Bryan, special assistant to the governor, said the bill was submitted to Turnbull last Tuesday and it will automatically become law if he fails to approve or veto it within the 10-day period.

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