Sept. 28, 2004 The Senate Rules Committee rushed to approve several budget bills Monday, in an attempt to produce a balanced budget by the Sept. 30 deadline.
A bill that would create an Office of Carnival Promotions within the Department of Tourism and would appropriate $1.9 million from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund to the Housing, Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Police departments for cleanup activities and security during carnival events was separated by the committee with a 4-1 vote.
The Carnival Accountability Act, sponsored by Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, would create the Office of Carnival Promotions whose director would be in charge of St. Thomas Carnival, St. John July 4th Celebration and the Crucian Christmas Festival, either running them directly or hiring a committee to run the events. It also called for agencies receiving monies from the government to be audited retroactively to November of 1999.
Sen. Ronald Russell made the motion to separate the Carnival Accountability Act from the appropriations to the Housing, Police and Public Works departments.
Sens. Lorraine Berry, Carlton Dowe, Louis Hill and Russell voted for the separation of the measure. Rules Committee Chair Roosevelt David voted against it. Senate President David Jones abstained and Douglas Canton Jr. was absent at the time of the vote.
The committee then voted on the bill as separated, approving the appropriations with a 6-1 vote. Berry, David, Dowe, Hill, Jones and Russell voted for the appropriations. Canton was absent at the time of the vote.
Russell then made a motion for the Carnival Accountability Act to be held in the committee until public hearings were held. The motion was approved with a 4-1 vote. Berry, Dowe, Hill and Russell voted for the motion. David voted against it. Jones abstained and Canton was absent for the vote.
"We need to deal with the Carnival Promotion Act in the proper way," Russell said. "To pass a substantial bill, such as this, without a public hearing is problematic to me."
Hill agreed. "When we seek to make major changes it is only reasonable that we take testimony from the people we're impacting," Hill said.
The other bills approved Monday are:
– a bill appropriating $1.6 million from the Bureau and Commercial Properties Revolving Fund to the Department of Property and Procurement's business and commercial properties administration for wages and other operating expenses;
– a bill appropriating $27.5 million to the University of the Virgin Islands for FY 2005;
– a bill appropriating $2.3 million from the Government Insurance Fund for expenses, including wages of salaried employees of the Department of Finance, Office of the Custodian and the Department of Labor, division of Occupational Safety and Health and the division of Workmen's Compensation;
– a bill appropriating a lump-sum budget of $1.7 million from the Health Revolving Fund to the Department of Health.
– a bill appropriating $4.5 million from the Indirect Cost Fund for the Office of Management and Budget, the Division of Personnel, the Department of Property and Procurement and the Department of Finance;
– a bill appropriating $57.6 million from the Special Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the General Fund;
– a bill appropriating $6.6 million from the Caribbean Basin Initiative Fund to the General Fund;
– a bill appropriating $3.1 million from the Anti-litter and Beautification Fund to the Department of Public Works;
– a bill appropriating $370,217 from the taxi License Fund to the V.I. Taxicab Division for operating expenses;
– a bill appropriating $940,000 from the Sewage System Fund to the Department of Public Works;
– a bill appropriating $13 million from the Transportation Trust Fund to the General Fund;
– a bill appropriating $869,079 from the Public Services Commission Revolving Fund to the PSC;
– a bill appropriating $1.5 million from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund to the Department of Public Works;
– a bill suspending the annual appropriation of $2 million from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund for FY 2005;
– a bill appropriating $1 million from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the Crisis Intervention Fund;
– a bill appropriating $2.06 million from the General Fund to WTJX Public Television System;
– and a bill appropriating $200,000 from the Interest Revenue Fund to the General Fund.
The 19 bills were discussed and approved in two hours. However, the committee was unable to vote on the executive budget bill and could not finalize budgets for the legislative and judicial branch. (See "Lack of Revenue, Funding For Raises Stalls Budget").
Attending the hearing were Sens. Berry, David, Dowe, Canton, Hill, Jones and Russell.
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