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Override Prospects: Tax Exemption, Police Vetoes

June 9, 2004 – Along with the veto of appropriations for union raises in the Senate's version of the fiscal year 2004 supplemental budget that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull announced on Tuesday, there are a couple of other changes of his making that may be headed for overrides.
Turnbull's veto of a provision removing a 4 percent tax on cars brought into the territory has met the ire of at least one senator. The Legislature had exempted cars from an existing law imposing a 4 percent tax on imported items worth more than $1,000.
The governor said that would take away revenues from the General Fund and "seriously impact" the government's ability to provide services. He also said the tax "does not stop residents from shopping for vehicles off-island."
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg said on Wednesday: "I think it's over-taxation. When you have to pay excise tax and road tax, I don't see the logic in an additional tax. And he is proposing another $50 annual tax on residential vehicles. It's unfair to the taxpayers to keep putting new taxes on their shoulders."
Donastorg said he suspects the administration is "going to say it's a loss of revenue but, in actuality, to balance a loss of revenue, that's another category of over-taxation. I really had hoped the governor would understand this." He paused and then quipped, "The governor has never driven a car in his life. This has nothing to do with the price of cheese, but he's never been affected."
According to Donastorg, "The tax from that item is minuscule. At the end of the day, we have to look at the overall picture, at revenue-enhancing measures. We need to streamline operations, like the Motor Vehicle Bureau — for which I've been blasted."
He has introduced a bill to remove the MVB from within the Police Department and make it a semi-autonomous agency. The only public official who has warmly embraced the idea so far is Lawrence Olive, the bureau director. Top police officials have publicly opposed the idea.
The governor in his cover letter to Senate President David Jones on Tuesday said he had line-item vetoed certain sections in the Police Department budget. The governor's intent was not immediately clear. Jones said on Tuesday that he didn't understand it.
Nathan Simmonds, director of the Office of Fiscal and Economic Recovery Implementation, provided an explanation on Wednesday. The Legislature had appropriated an additional $1.8 million to the Police Department, designating $587,000 to the Law Enforcement Supervisors Union and $1.2 million to the Motor Vehicle Bureau.
Simmonds said the governor simply vetoed the designating of how the funds are to be spent. "The police will determine where the money will be best used, as opposed to saying how the money will divvied up," he said.
Turnbull said in his letter, and Simmonds reiterated, that the appropriation must be restored to the Police Department so it does not overspend its FY2004 budget. Some of the money already has been advanced to the MVB.
The governor said he is fully committed to improving the bureau operations. "Let me assure you," he wrote Jones, "the MVB will receive whatever assistance it needs to function."

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