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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, July 16, 2024


Comments by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's chief financial advisor notwithstanding, the governor will not submit the administration's fiscal year 2001 budget to the Legislature by the close of business Friday, a date agreed upon by the two branches of government more than a month ago.
In a letter dated Thursday, June 29, and received in the offices of Senate president Vargrave Richards and Senate Finance Committee chair Lorraine Berry Friday morning, Turnbull indicated that the delay now is at least in part due to various measures impacting on fiscal areas that were approved by the Senate in a marathon session on June 19.
The governor gave no revised date for submitting the budget. The June 30 deadline represented a one-month extension from the May 31 deadline set by law for the administration to submit its proposed budget for the next fiscal year to the Legislature.
"We will continue our efforts to prepare a realistic and meaningful budget while simultaneously addressing the new issues which arose as a result of the Legislature's June 19, 2000, actions," Turnbull wrote. "As soon as our assessment is completed, I will make every effort to transmit the proposed fiscal year budget to the Legislature for its consideration."
On Thursday, Turnbull's assistant for fiscal policy and economic affairs, Rudolph Krigger Jr., told Radio One News and the Source with regard to the 2001 budget, "Things are moving along." He gave no indication that the budget would not be submitted Friday as scheduled, although the governor's letter was transmitted on Thursday.
Government House chief of staff Juel Molloy said Friday morning that "all the changes in that series of actions that were done June 19 – appropriating from the Indirect Cost Fund, disability payments in certain categories, and diversion of license fees from the General Fund – completely disrupted all the work that had gone into the budget."
In the governor's budget, Molloy added, "Another thing contemplated was charging fees for public and parochial school busing," and Senate reaction has been strong opposition. "We will have to do a whole series of revisions, given the actions of the Legislature," she said.
By law, Government House is to submit its proposed budget for the ensuing fiscal year to the Legislature by the end of May. The fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 of one calendar year to Sept. 30 of the next. On May 23, Turnbull asked for, and the Legislature agreed to, a one-month extension.
In his Thursday letter to Richards, Turnbull wrote that the budget development process "has not been without difficulties. Those difficulties have translated into delays and have created issues which the Office of Management and Budget has strived diligently to overcome." But, he said, measures passed by the Senate on June 19 "affect revenue and expenditure initiatives and policy decisions that the administration has incorporated in the proposed fiscal year 2001 budget." He termed it "imperative that this administration assess the impact"of the Legislature's actions on the proposed budget "in the context of the ongoing issues in the budget process."
In a daylong session lasting until after 8 p.m. June 19, senators approved a flurry of amendments affecting everything from the V.I. Water and Power Authority to the V.I. Judicial Council, tacking them onto a routine housekeeping bill relating to the Emergency Services Fund surcharge collected on behalf of the government by the V.I. Telephone Corp. Among them were provisions to:
– appropriate up to $250,000 from the V.I. Public Accountancy Fund to hire an independent consultant to analyze the proposed Southern Energy agreement with WAPA.
– appropriate $1 million from the Indirect Cost Fund for fiscal year 2000 for WAPA to extend, repair and maintain water lines in Estate Tutu, Anna's Retreat and Smith Bay.
– make Human Services Department corrections officers, Port Authority firefighters and Territorial Court probation officers elegible for duty-connected disability payments.
– allow the Judicial Council of the V.I. to establish a separate draw-down imprest account.
On the same date that Turnbull requested the extension to June 30, Berry told St. Thomas Rotarians that the lack of information from the administration about the "the true state of government finances" was hindering the Senate in the performance of its duties. She said Government House had provided no information on the 5 percent reduction in payroll costs required in the memorandum of understanding between the territory and the Interior Department.
In her address, Berry also cited Personnel Department officials saying the salaries for new or vacant positions were "not available," so that lawmakers had "no way to determine whether payroll costs were going up, down, sideways or whatever." All they could do, she said, was to await the 2001 budget to "try and figure out what is happening with personnel costs."
Speaking at Memorial Day ceremonies May 29 on St. Thomas, Turnbull said he sought the one-month delay to allow fiscal officers to analyze the impact of factoring "certain elements" of the Economic Recovery Task Force's Five-Year Operating and Strategic Financial Plan into the budget. He pledged full disclosure of government finances during the Senate's budget review process.

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