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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesCHRISTENSEN DEFENDS HER ROLE IN MEMORANDUM

CHRISTENSEN DEFENDS HER ROLE IN MEMORANDUM

Delegate to Congress Donna Christian-Christensen fielded criticism Thursday for her role in the V.I. government-U.S. Interior Department memorandum of understanding.
Some critics of the memorandum contend that its terms put Interior in the position of being a de facto control board over the Virgin Islands.
Along with mandating that the government cut its budget by reducing payroll, a major part of the agreement calls for restructuring the territory’s public labor relations laws, including Act No. 4440, to conform with the federal public labor relations law by June 30, 2000.
The memorandum states that "Recurring General Fund deficits and unfunded current liabilities in recent years have, to a significant extent, been aggravated by collective bargaining agreements, whereby (government of the Virgin Islands) employees enjoy greater bargaining rights than those enjoyed by federal employees."
The provision to revise local labor laws has raised the fury of union leaders and others. And while Gov. Charles Turnbull is receiving much of the criticism, so is Christensen. At least one V.I. senator chastised the delegate for working with Turnbull and federal officials "behind closed doors."
The memorandum is part of legislation Christensen submitted to Congress, at the behest of Turnbull, that would make it possible for the territory to save millions in costs associated with the administration’s effort to issue $100 million in bonds to meet its obligations, including payroll.
"This was a matter of urgency," Christensen said in an interview on WSTX radio Thursday. "It’s a rushed thing and a lot of people up here (Washington, D.C.) were upset about it."
The memorandum’s purpose is to define the "standards of financial performance and accountability that are necessary for the government of the Virgin Islands to successfully carry out its financial recovery program and achieve a balanced budget," according to the document.
"(Federal officials) were not willing to just go ahead and give (the administration) that borrowing authority," Christensen said in explaining why she included the memorandum of understanding in her bill.
She added that several of the provisos in the memorandum have already been announced by Turnbull as part of the financial recovery plan, such as a 50 percent cut in overtime expenditures from fiscal year 1999; a hiring freeze with limited and "highly scrutinized" exceptions; a 5 percent reduction in payroll costs from fiscal year 1999 baseline costs; and an additional 10 percent cut of overall expenditures.
"A lot of the things have been discussed before," Christensen said, adding that those criticizing her now may be suffering from "selective amnesia."
"It’s very unfair for anyone to suggest that I’d go behind close doors," she said. "I wasn’t sitting there developing the memorandum of understanding with the governor or Interior."
As for the provisions requiring changes in local labor laws, Christensen said any revisions would have to be approved by the V.I. Legislature.

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Delegate to Congress Donna Christian-Christensen fielded criticism Thursday for her role in the V.I. government-U.S. Interior Department memorandum of understanding.
Some critics of the memorandum contend that its terms put Interior in the position of being a de facto control board over the Virgin Islands.
Along with mandating that the government cut its budget by reducing payroll, a major part of the agreement calls for restructuring the territory’s public labor relations laws, including Act No. 4440, to conform with the federal public labor relations law by June 30, 2000.
The memorandum states that "Recurring General Fund deficits and unfunded current liabilities in recent years have, to a significant extent, been aggravated by collective bargaining agreements, whereby (government of the Virgin Islands) employees enjoy greater bargaining rights than those enjoyed by federal employees."
The provision to revise local labor laws has raised the fury of union leaders and others. And while Gov. Charles Turnbull is receiving much of the criticism, so is Christensen. At least one V.I. senator chastised the delegate for working with Turnbull and federal officials "behind closed doors."
The memorandum is part of legislation Christensen submitted to Congress, at the behest of Turnbull, that would make it possible for the territory to save millions in costs associated with the administration’s effort to issue $100 million in bonds to meet its obligations, including payroll.
"This was a matter of urgency," Christensen said in an interview on WSTX radio Thursday. "It’s a rushed thing and a lot of people up here (Washington, D.C.) were upset about it."
The memorandum’s purpose is to define the "standards of financial performance and accountability that are necessary for the government of the Virgin Islands to successfully carry out its financial recovery program and achieve a balanced budget," according to the document.
"(Federal officials) were not willing to just go ahead and give (the administration) that borrowing authority," Christensen said in explaining why she included the memorandum of understanding in her bill.
She added that several of the provisos in the memorandum have already been announced by Turnbull as part of the financial recovery plan, such as a 50 percent cut in overtime expenditures from fiscal year 1999; a hiring freeze with limited and "highly scrutinized" exceptions; a 5 percent reduction in payroll costs from fiscal year 1999 baseline costs; and an additional 10 percent cut of overall expenditures.
"A lot of the things have been discussed before," Christensen said, adding that those criticizing her now may be suffering from "selective amnesia."
"It’s very unfair for anyone to suggest that I’d go behind close doors," she said. "I wasn’t sitting there developing the memorandum of understanding with the governor or Interior."
As for the provisions requiring changes in local labor laws, Christensen said any revisions would have to be approved by the V.I. Legislature.