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HomeNewsArchivesGOVERNOR SIGNS EXECUTIVE, OMNIBUS BUDGET BILLS

GOVERNOR SIGNS EXECUTIVE, OMNIBUS BUDGET BILLS

Oct. 11, 2001 – Calling some of the 24th Legislature's budget recommendations incomprehensible, questionable, or virtually doomed to failure, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull signed the Fiscal Year 2002 executive budget and the 2002 Omnibus Bill into law shortly before the Wednesday midnight deadline.
These bills were conspicuously missing from the first batch of bills he had signed several hours earlier.
Taking exception to the Legislature's line-itemed executive budget, Turnbull made liberal use of his veto pen. He told Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd in his cover letter that "the unprecedented specificity contained in the line-items of this budget bill give me cause for great concern about the extent with which this legislature has inserted itself into the executive branch's administrative process."
Previous Legislatures have generally used the lump-sum process, giving departments and agencies more leverage in determining their own needs. Turnbull urged the senators "to please consider returning to the lump-sum budget format for Fiscal Year 2001-2002."
Turnbull said the senators made cuts that dangerously impair the functioning of some departments. He said cuts in the Division of Personnel mean necessary insurance consultants cannot be retained, and that the division's modernization program, "on which so much time and money has been spent, will come to a halt just short of completion."
A cut in the Finance Department's audit services, from $1.6 million to $600,000, "virtually dooms the crucial single-audit process to failure, and endangers federal funding territorywide," he said.
Cuts will affect revenue collections in the Licensing and Consumer Affair Department and may result in employee layoffs, Turnbull continued. And the omission of funding for utility payments for the Public Works and Housing, Parks and Recreation Departments is "incomprehensible," he said.
Also, he objected to a cut of $500,000 in V.I. Housing Authority funding for water and residential care services, "especially to the territory's elderly clients." He said, "The money is sorely needed."
In the Omnibus Bill, Turnbull vetoed two sections affecting the Government Employees Retirement System, one which would assist individuals to become homeowners and another which authorizes rehiring retirees into government jobs. He said the section was "overbroad" and lacked sufficient limits and safeguards to guard against its abuse. He said he would submit legislation "which allows me to … address areas of greatest concern."
Turnbull gave the Legislature itself two slaps on the wrist: First, he line-item vetoed $700,000 for capital improvements to the Earl B. Ottley Hall, the Legislature building on St. Thomas. Then he rejected a measure which would have tied senators' salaries to that of the territory's highest-paid commissioners.
The governor approved a new property tax amnesty — until Dec. 31 — but vetoed the retroactive provision of the measure. "The inclusion of retroactivity in the section would create both an administrative and financial hardship on the Department of Finance, as well as an inequitable circumstance for individuals who have paid their taxes in the interim," he said.
An official in the Finance Department's Property Tax Division said Thursday that it had not yet received news of the amnesty, which was sent out Thursday morning. However, Rina Jacobs McBrowne, Government House spokesperson, said it is in effect from Thursday, Oct. 11, through Dec. 31.

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