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HomeNewsArchivesWEISS WON'T SERVE ON IDC BUT HAS SUGGESTIONS

WEISS WON'T SERVE ON IDC BUT HAS SUGGESTIONS

St. Thomas businessman Neil Weiss has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Industrial Development Commission, citing health reasons.
Weiss said Monday night that he recently returned from Florida, where he learned he is probably facing major back surgery and would thus be unable to devote the necessary time to the IDC.
"It's an old war injury that's finally caught up with me," he said.
Weiss said he notified both Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who nominated him to the commission, and staff on the Senate Rules Committee of his withdrawal from consideration "about four days ago." He said he was surprised that there has been no announcement yet. The published Senate calendar for this week lists his nomination hearing before Rules on Thursday.
The commission has been unable to act for months because it lacks a quorum. In February, Turnbull nominated Weiss, Malcolm Plaskett, Mary Ann Pickard and Randolf Allen to fill vacant spots on the seven-member board. Two members serve by virtue of their Cabinet posts — the Internal Revenue Bureau director and the Tourism commissioner.
IDC executive director Frandelle Gerard announced last fall that she was cracking down on IDC beneficiaries that do not meet the terms of their agreements with the government. But very little has happened in that effort because, she has said, the commission is unable to hold hearings on alleged delinquencies.
While he is unable to serve on the IDC, Weiss shared his thoughts on how to increase industrial incentives and lure more business to the territory. He said he has already presented his plan to several senators.
In essence, he proposes opening St. Thomas to casino gambling, taxing the proceeds therefrom, and using the money to encourage investors to build on St. Croix.
The first step in the process would be to have a referendum on gambling on St. Thomas. Island voters have said no to casinos several times in the past, including the most recent vote which opened the door to gaming on St. Croix. Weiss believes the result now would be different.
He also believes existing large St. Thomas hotels can convert to gaming within six months, and suggests the government designate four of them to do it.
The hotels with casinos would then pay a higher room tax than those without — 10 percent, rather than 8 percent — and the revenue from the additional 2 percent would go into an Industrial Development Bank specifically for St. Croix. The hotels also would pay into that bank 2 percent of the net profits from their slot machines and a $5 cover charge assessed casino patrons who are not hotel guests.
The bank also would be funded with a $1 per passenger head tax on cruise ship passengers, and a 10 cent per gallon prosperity tax on gasoline.
Weiss estimates the taxes and fees would generate at least $6 million a year. That money could be used guarantee payback on the issue of $80 million to $90 million in industrial revenue bonds.
The bond money would be used to give loans of generous terms to investors ready to plunk down $100 million to $150 million in St. Croix. He's suggesting loans of up to 25 percent of the investment at a rate of 2.5 percent for 15 years.
The proposal has gotten a cool reception from senators so far, he said. That may be in part because some believe casino gambling is controversial.

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St. Thomas businessman Neil Weiss has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Industrial Development Commission, citing health reasons.
Weiss said Monday night that he recently returned from Florida, where he learned he is probably facing major back surgery and would thus be unable to devote the necessary time to the IDC.
"It's an old war injury that's finally caught up with me," he said.
Weiss said he notified both Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who nominated him to the commission, and staff on the Senate Rules Committee of his withdrawal from consideration "about four days ago." He said he was surprised that there has been no announcement yet. The published Senate calendar for this week lists his nomination hearing before Rules on Thursday.
The commission has been unable to act for months because it lacks a quorum. In February, Turnbull nominated Weiss, Malcolm Plaskett, Mary Ann Pickard and Randolf Allen to fill vacant spots on the seven-member board. Two members serve by virtue of their Cabinet posts -- the Internal Revenue Bureau director and the Tourism commissioner.
IDC executive director Frandelle Gerard announced last fall that she was cracking down on IDC beneficiaries that do not meet the terms of their agreements with the government. But very little has happened in that effort because, she has said, the commission is unable to hold hearings on alleged delinquencies.
While he is unable to serve on the IDC, Weiss shared his thoughts on how to increase industrial incentives and lure more business to the territory. He said he has already presented his plan to several senators.
In essence, he proposes opening St. Thomas to casino gambling, taxing the proceeds therefrom, and using the money to encourage investors to build on St. Croix.
The first step in the process would be to have a referendum on gambling on St. Thomas. Island voters have said no to casinos several times in the past, including the most recent vote which opened the door to gaming on St. Croix. Weiss believes the result now would be different.
He also believes existing large St. Thomas hotels can convert to gaming within six months, and suggests the government designate four of them to do it.
The hotels with casinos would then pay a higher room tax than those without -- 10 percent, rather than 8 percent -- and the revenue from the additional 2 percent would go into an Industrial Development Bank specifically for St. Croix. The hotels also would pay into that bank 2 percent of the net profits from their slot machines and a $5 cover charge assessed casino patrons who are not hotel guests.
The bank also would be funded with a $1 per passenger head tax on cruise ship passengers, and a 10 cent per gallon prosperity tax on gasoline.
Weiss estimates the taxes and fees would generate at least $6 million a year. That money could be used guarantee payback on the issue of $80 million to $90 million in industrial revenue bonds.
The bond money would be used to give loans of generous terms to investors ready to plunk down $100 million to $150 million in St. Croix. He's suggesting loans of up to 25 percent of the investment at a rate of 2.5 percent for 15 years.
The proposal has gotten a cool reception from senators so far, he said. That may be in part because some believe casino gambling is controversial.