Sept. 4, 2003 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull called the news media to Government House Thursday afternoon to observe the signing of virtual oceans of paperwork which culminated in the government receiving a $100 million bridge loan from Banco Popular de Puerto Rico and First Bank of Puerto Rico.
The short-term loan had been in the works since the Legislature approved Turnbull's $235 million bond issue bill on July 15. The measure earmarked $100 million of the bond proceeds for income-tax refunds and vendor payments. The bridge loan, which will be repaid once the bonds are floated, is coming 65 percent from Banco Popular and 35 percent from First Bank.
Seated at a small table for the paperwork signing, which occupied the better part of half an hour, were the governor; Valentino McBean, Banco Popular senior vice president and regional manager; James Crites, First Bank senior vice president and regional credit officer; and Senate President David Jones, serving as acting lieutenant governor in the absence of Vargrave Richards, who is off-island.
Those anticipating tax refunds should have them soon. Louis Willis, Internal Revenue Bureau director, said the checks should be in the mail "within 10 days." He said the government will be sending out 18,000 refunds totaling about $35.4 million, with $46 million to be sent out by the end of the year.
Ira Mills, Office of Management and Budget director, said the remaining $53 million is for vendor payments, of which the Water and Power Authority is at the top of the priority list
Kenneth Mapp, Public Finance Authority director of finance and administration, said $99,350,000 had to be wired to the Public Finance Authority by 3 p.m. Thursday. The $650,000 balance is the loan fee, he said. He said copies of the documents would be available to the media on Friday.
"This borrowing we have undertaken is necessary for economic recovery," Turnbull told the news media representatives present. "As a result of this borrowing, we can now pay the vendors and have the refunds out in a short time. We are not borrowing just to borrow, but to inch our way out of our economic situation and on the road to recovery. We will recover."
He continued: "We all knew it wouldn't be easy. We are doing the best we can do at this time. We sent a balanced budget to the Legislature, and the ball is in their court now."
The governor said the Virgin Islands is not alone in facing a financial crisis. "The nation is in the worst economic downturn since World War II," he said. "These are unusual times, and we must take unusual measures. This means we must all work together — the private sector, labor, everybody." He cautioned, "This is not a time to point fingers; it is a time to come together."
Although the governor appears to have lost weight since his recent week in Roy L. Schneider Hospital for treatment of what was described as a bleeding ulcer, he said he is in good health. Asked about persistent comments in the community that his health is suffering and he might step down, Turnbull smiled and said that is not true.
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