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Sunday, April 21, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesA Letter from Stacey E. Plaskett Esq.

A Letter from Stacey E. Plaskett Esq.

Dear Source:
I want to bring a matter of great importance to your attention. A major tax exemption was recently attached to a bill as an amendment by Senator Shawn Michael Malone. By using a last-minute amendment, Senate President Malone avoided the usual committee process and public hearings. At a time when we are facing a budget deficit so serious that government workers were forced to endure an 8% pay cut, what possible justification could there be for passing a sweeping tax exemption without public hearings?
The Malone Amendment greatly expands the types of companies eligible for tax exemptions through the RTPark, and even includes companies that do not have direct technology based revenues. The RTPark can now lay claim to companies that would have had to go to the EDC (which has requirements for employment, benefits, charitable contributions among other things); or which had been denied benefits from the EDC. Did you know that three of our largest revenue-producing companies: Innovative, Choice and Broadband VI, are getting tax exemptions as "tenants" of the Tech Park for a variety of services as far back as 2009 even though they are not located at the Tech Park?
Innovative, Choice and Broadband VI serve our local market. The money we pay these companies for our cell phones, cable TV, and Internet obviously results in large revenues. Ordinarily, these revenues would be generating gross receipts and corporate income tax for the General Fund. The Malone Amendment gives these companies a long term tax holiday. This exemption does not extend to smaller local companies providing the same services who must pay gross receipts and other taxes. How can they compete on such an uneven playing field?
The EDC program requires notice in local papers and public hearings, the RTPark does not have this requirement. By expanding the businesses eligible to go to the RTPark, the public will be left in the dark about what companies receive a tax exemption and why. The RTPark can and should play a role in the growth of the territory. This is not to say that the companies receiving tax exemption are not good for the territory. The people however, have a right to know how much these exemptions are costing the taxpayers, what benefits we receive in return, and how the millions in public funds flowing into the RTPark have been spent.
The Malone Amendment removes the requirement that future companies accepting benefits from the RTPark be physically located at the recently built $13 Million RTPark facility on St. Croix. By so doing, Senator Malone deprives St. Croix of its position as the focus of the RTPark statute as well as the business growth, revenues and intellectual activity for its campus’ students that the original lawmakers intended.
Our budget shortfall has negatively impacted government workers, retiree pensions, our hospitals, schools and our roads; all in dire need of additional funding. In the middle of a territorial budget crisis, how can Senator Malone justify handing special interests a tax exemption without a public hearing? With unemployment hovering at 14% on St. Croix, how can he justify removing the requirement for future companies of the RTPark to be on St. Croix?
With the last minute offering of the Amendment without the Committee hearing, I cannot believe that other Senators fully comprehended the negative impact of this legislation on the Virgin Islands in general and on St. Croix in particular.
I encourage this paper and others to voice concern regarding this Amendment, its process of passage, and the detrimental impact it will have on our territory. I strongly urge the Governor to veto Bill No. 30-0302.
Yours respectfully, Stacey Plaskett Esq.

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