Dear Source,
On Aug. 1, I made the following statement, "This territory can ill afford to jeopardize its fragile tourism economy by adding more fees to the airlines." I was referring to the V.I. Port Authority's public prediction of a revenue shortfall, made only two months after Gov. Charles Turnbull took $4 million from the Authority to fund school and maintenance repairs. Once again the Turnbull Administration's inability to keep our financial house in order has considerably darkened the territory's economic future.
Although I understand the predicament the Authority finds itself in, I feel strongly that we should heed the words of the representatives of the airlines and delay any implementation of increased airport fees, especially given the shaky financial condition of the airlines that serve the Virgin Islands.
Instead, I urge the Port Authority board to push the Turnbull Administration for assistance in this matter. I suggest that the governor dedicate the excess revenues, up to a maximum of $5 million and not required to be held in the Insurance Guarantee Fund, to be used to assist the Port Authority. That fund has reached its legislative cap; therefore the flexibility exists for reallocating the funds. It is important that we sustain air traffic in order to not jeopardize the livelihood of so many that depend on tourism.
First, the Turnbull Administration takes $4 million from the Port Authority for school repairs, then it turns around and gives more than $8 million in raises and retroactive pay to its top unclassified employees. Meanwhile it continues to ignore the retroactive obligations due to unionized employees, all the while negotiating contracts without the ability to pay. Where's the logic in all this?
Now the Port Authority is in trouble financially. The airlines may well pull out if airport fees are raised. The cruise lines have already left St. Croix. Now the Turnbull Administration, through the combination of its earlier actions and its invariably wrong 'knee-jerk' reactions, is pushing the airlines to leave.
John de Jongh
St. Thomas
Candidate for Governor

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