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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 17, 2024


The Legislature on Friday canceled budget hearings for the coming week and beginning Nov. 28 will concentrate instead on a series of revenue measures including Bureau of Internal Revenue collections of millions in outstanding taxes.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lorraine Berry said Friday that senators want to deal with the revenue measures by the end of the month and to wrap up all business of the current Legislature by Dec. 13.
She would not elaborate on the proposals saying "we are still working on those."
Meanwhile "we intend to leave the current budget in place," she said.
"This was the consensus of the people who caucused" for three days this week. She would not say specifically who is behind the move but said they represent a majority of the Legislature.
The Legislature needs to make up a shortfall of at least $34 million, the result partly of its rejection of administration proposals.
To balance his budget proposal, Gov. Charles Turnbull was counting on $24 million from a temporary increase in the gross receipts tax and another $10 million from having government employees share the cost of their benefits 50-50 with the government. The Legislature already has rejected both measures.
Turnbull's budget, which calls for $429 million, now stands at $395 million. And Berry believes the gap is even wider. The 2000 budget was $444 million, and she questioned whether $429 million is realistic for 2001.
"It was an inadequate budget from the very beginning," she said.
She also criticized the administration for failing to implement the Fiscal Accountability law that was passed over Turnbull's veto in the summer of 1999. Its provisions include a requirement for a balanced budget and a "two for one" government employee attrition program.
Berry said another factor in the decision to cancel next week's schedule of budget hearings was that a number of department heads were not available to attend.
When the committee resumes work on Nov. 28 in Senate chambers on St. Thomas, it will hear from top administration financial officers: Ira Mills, director of the Office of Management and Budget; Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull; Louis Willis, acting director of the IRB; Tax Assessor Roy Martin; Lauritz Mills, head of the Bureau of Economic Research; and Amadeo Francis, director of finance and administration for the Public Finance Authority.

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