With the adjournment of the 23rd Legislature for this calendar year, complete with its usual lack of civility and a lot of sound and fury signifying very little, the League of Women voters of the Virgin Islands still has important, but unanswered questions and observations.
For one, the Fiscal Year 2000 Omnibus Act has now made law some unrealistic financial mandates. Just as blood cannot be drawn from a stone, so, too the government of the Virgin Islands cannot expect, with any surety, that revenues will be available to the Department of Education and the University of the Virgin Islands in their entirety.
Never in the financial records of the last 30 years has the treasury of the Virgin Islands ever shown a surplus of this magnitude, particularly in the first quarter of the fiscal year.
This, of course, is partially thanks to the $300 million bond issue. Without such a cash flow, how can the Office of Management and Budget allot what the new law requires to either or both the Department of Education and the University?
Further, from where will funds be drawn to meet the pledge to pay semi-annual interest on the $300 million bond issue in fiscal year 2000? The pledge says from gross receipts taxes. Of course, this will further reduce revenues for operations of the government. Does the bond issue capitalize the first year's interest obligations? The public has a right to know.
The appropriation of $3.6 million from the windfall on rum excise taxes for road repairs taxes for road repairs raises its own questions. First, without proper accounting for past years' collections (estimated annual figure of $7 million) to expenditures from the road fund, neither the league nor the public has any idea how the revenues which feed the road fund [the 14 cents per gallon purchased at the gas pumps, the road tax, parking lot fees and traffic fines] are being spent. According to reports in the media, there is no money in the road fund. How have these monies been used?
The league also has concerns that Section 3 of the Fiscal Year 2000 Omnibus Act which allows partial payments of all obligations to the government may further exacerbate the cash flow problems.
Is the league of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands beating a dead horse? The league's policy dedicates the organization to non-partisan lobbying for an informed electorate and improved government. So, the league will continue to ask, and ask, and aks until public answers are provided.
Erva Denham, president