How long can the fiscal affairs of the Virgin Islands be conducted in a vacuum? The governor fails to share financial data to permit informed legislative action, and the Legislature over-appropriates the resources available to the government. Under these conditions, the deficit continues to increase. To further compound the problem, the Legislature recently saw fit to over-ride the governor's veto of certain sections of Act 6634, the Omnibus Authorization Act of 2004, creating additional expenditure obligations without apparent regard for the already existing deficit.
Lately, borrowing by incurring long-term debt has been a solution. This consistent borrowing to cover operating costs is no answer. Currently, $54 million from the General Fund is required annually to meet long-term debt. Are all these appropriation based on realistic estimated revenues?
The Legislature appropriated $237,465 from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund to pay for Julius E. Sprauve School repairs. On what financial information was this appropriation based? Aren't this year's resources in that fund already committed to the operations of the new wastewater treatment plant, garbage collection and disposal, as well as the manpower to deliver these services? While the League agrees that a tax study is critical, wouldn't the use of funding from the insurance premium revenues reduce the resources required to maintain the Insurance Guaranty Fund and fund the operations of the Division of Insurance? What is the expediency of consolidating and creating additional agencies before a comprehensive financial management plan is in place and a true picture of the government's financial situation is recognized ?
The Legislature has also voted the override that restores funding for the Fire Service to reopen the fire stations and related matters. Is this a real solution to the problems of the residents in the affected areas? Can the General Fund honor this appropriation? Without financial data on the current status of the General Fund, how can the Legislature assume that $1.3 million is, or will be, available to fund this appropriation? Is the enactment of an appropriation without the surety that real monies will be available an honest response to the concerns of the electorate?
To the League of Women Voters, the current political machinations of both the legislature and the executive do the people of the Virgin Islands a grave disservice. Increasingly, the executive and the Legislature appear to forget that they serve the same electorate and that cooperation accomplishes more than one-upmanship. The current melee demands the implementation of a meaningful financial plan with sound fiscal policies and political leaders with the courage to make the right decisions.
Editor's note: Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, a former V.I. attorney general, is president of the League of Women Voters of the Virgin islands.
We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to email@example.com.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice.. click here.