GOVERNOR PROPOSES RECORD $551M BUDGET

July 16, 2001 – The Turnbull administration's 2002 budget plan sets a record for proposed spending.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has unveiled a whopping $551 million budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Last year, he asked for $429.6 million.
The governor released his budget late Monday, more than six weeks late according to V.I. law. The Senate Finance Committee has been holding budget hearings for weeks without the document.
Turnbull indicates he is counting primarily on an upswing in the economy to fund the expenditures. In recent weeks he and some of his financial officers have said that the government is seeing unexpected and sizable increases in tax revenues.
The only actual revenue-generating measure in the 2002 package is an annual $10 fee for "motor vehicle disposal" that would be tacked onto car registration fees. The money would go to the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund to pay for disposing of abandoned vehicles.
As promised, the budget commits a large chunk of money for government employee salary increases: $48 million.
It also contains $12 million for increases in health insurance costs for government workers and $8.1 million for similar increases for government retirees.
Among other expenditures, Turnbull is asking for:
– $10.7 million for debt service.
– $6.1 million for rum promotion and molasses subsidy.
– $2 million for airline promotion.
– $2 million as partial payment of overdue Water and Power Authority bills.
The proposed budget calls for the creation of a Disaster Recovery Contingency Fund that, Turnbull said, "will initiate assistance to this community in our hurricane recovery efforts." It does not appropriate any money to the fun but authorizes future appropriations.
Another section of the proposal would transfer responsibility for street lights from the Public Works Department to WAPA. And another provides for an additional seven assistant attorney general positions.
As has become common practice, the proposed budget contains many transfers of money from special funds into the General Fund, or to expend for purposes unrelated to those for which the fund was created. For example, Turnbull wants $750,000 from the Tourism Advertising Fund, consisting of hotel room-tax revenues, to go to the territory's carnival celebrations and other festivities. He also wants to transfer $5 million from the Insurance Guaranty Fund to the General Fund. The IGF consists of money deposited by insurance companies doing business in the territory and is meant to be a hedge against failures of insurance companies.
In his transmittal letter to the Legislature, Turnbull said, "I am still confident that this community will have a stronger economy in the near future. The passage of the measures contained in the budget will essentially benefit the people of the Virgin Islands. In turn, this will support this administration's continuing efforts to boost the level of economic activity in the territory while supporting a viable infrastructure to support such economic activity."

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