Jan. 30, 2007 — Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis met with senators Tuesday to advance talks on the administrations legislative priorities and broader themes offered in last week's State of the Territory address, according to a Government House release.
We want this to signal a new working relationship between Government House and the Legislature with our aim being to improve government operations, stimulate our economy and improve lives for our children, deJongh said as he began the luncheon meeting held at Estate Catherineberg.
DeJongh told the senators that he sees both the budget process and the Senate consideration of nominees to be a collaborative, not adversarial, effort. He used the opportunity to lay out several priorities, which include creating a Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation; transferring the Housing component and the Community Development Block Grant program to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority; moving the Energy Office back to the Office of the Governor; and taking action to spread out the payment deadlines for two real property tax bills that will become due in this calendar year.
DeJongh also underscored the need for the legislative and executive branches of government to brainstorm on a health care bill and to address the needs of both the homeless and patients in the mental health care system.
In the first few weeks in office, deJongh said several issues have come to his attention that will require funding authorization from the Senate. We are facing the summer maintenance for schools with no monies budgeted in the fiscal year 2007, and there is a need to revamp the process for next years budget cycle, deJongh added.
The governor tackled other items in the discussion including the need for an appropriation for generators in three schools that have been designated as emergency shelters. These generators should be in place before the hurricane season begins, he added. He also spoke of the need for a $300,000 appropriation for bird flu anti-virals, consistent with an existing agreement between U.S. Health and Human Services and the U.S. Surgeon General.
DeJongh also spoke of the critical nature of the territorys 911 system and the requirement to identify local monies to secure federal matching funds. This system is fundamental to the basic security of our population, he said.
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