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Governor in Washington Working to Keep Stimulus Bill on Track

Feb. 4, 2009 — In making the switch over from the House to the U.S. Senate the federal economic-stimulus package has gone through some changes, and Gov. John deJongh Jr. is continuing his efforts to make sure the Virgin Islands is still included in the bill.
DeJongh left the territory Tuesday for two days of scheduled discussions and one-on-one meetings with congressional leaders in both the House and Senate, according to a Government House news release. While in Washington, D.C., the governor will also attend the annual National Prayer Breakfast and is expected to meet with President Barack Obama and members of his administration.
The package recently approved by the House focused more on infrastructure development and capital projects, while the bill currently making its way through the Senate deals more with program spending.
"While the focus of the legislation is constantly changing and the bill will likely undergo additional changes before a final version emerges … I am optimistic that the Virgin Islands will receive substantial new federal monies for a number of different programs in the territory," the governor said.
The House's version of the bill would bring money into the territory for school repairs, mass-transit assistance, public education, Medicaid, wastewater-treatment improvements, food stamps and energy needs, among other things, according to the release.
Some of the money will come in the form of grants to the territory, while in other instances the Virgin Islands will have to compete with other jurisdictions for the same pot of money, the governor said. The package approved by the House also includes a provision that would reimburse the territory for any revenue losses resulting from the tax cuts included for middle- and working-class families.
DeJongh and 19 other governors have signed a letter to the president supporting the bill and calling for Congress to resolve its issues so the package can pass through.
"I am committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to ensure the territory receives its fair share of monies under the terms of this proposed legislation," the governor said. "Just as my fellow governors have said, I too believe that support for public education, for health care and for rebuilding our public infrastructure will create and preserve jobs today while representing a sound investment in our longterm economic interests."
DeJongh and Delegate Donna M. Christensen will continue to meet with House and Senate members to discuss the package, along with other issues affecting the territory, the release said.
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