Gov. Kenneth Mapp issued an executive order Tuesday slashing spending to try to preserve essential services as the government struggles to deal with a tightening budget crisis.
The territory has a $98 million current year budget shortfall, with years of budget cuts in most major departments. The Legislature continues to consider revenue measures proposed by Mapp as part of a five-year budget reduction. The measures are largely opposed by the business community.
The territory has been unable to borrow to fill the gap and available cash for essential services from schools to police is running short.
In a statement, Mapp said his five-year plan is designed to eventually eradicate the territory’s ongoing structural deficit. Mapp’s order cites the need for “immediate and comprehensive action to reduce current spending” while ensuring, to the extent possible, that essential services to protect public health, safety and welfare are preserved, according to Government House.
The new executive order freezes all nonessential hiring in all executive branch departments and agencies with some exceptions, including:
- federally funded positions;
- emergency and public safety positions;
- teaching positions within the departments of Education and Human Services;
- jobs mandated by federal court consent decrees.
The executive order also suspends immediately all wage negotiations related to the U.S. Third Circuit’s decision that temporary 8 percent government pay cuts in 2011 were unlawful.
Until further notice, the order suspends nonessential travel paid for out of the government’s General Fund, and directs heads of departments and agencies to limit 24-hour use of nonemergency government vehicles to employees whose functions are essential and require use of government vehicles after work hours on a regular basis.
Mapp’s order requests the other government branches and independent instrumentalities not under the direct authority of the governor, such as hospitals, the University of the Virgin Islands, the V.I. Waste Management Authority, and all others which receive government funds, put in place similar cost containing measures.
The order takes effect immediately and will continue until Mapp issues a new order reversing them, according to Government House.