May 23, 2003 – Delegate Donna M. Christensen said in a release issued on Friday that she is "concerned about the Turnbull administration's tax-laden response" to the territory's fiscal crisis.
And, she said, "I am still waiting to hear the other side — how spending will be reduced." I know that the federal government, who I am sure will be called on for help, will be waiting also."
The package of six bills submitted to the Legislature by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull last week calls for borrowing another $235 million, spending on numerous projects including $80 million for a hotel on St. Croix, and imposing or increasing numerous taxes, mainly affecting the business sector. It lays out only one cost-cutting measure: going from 26 government pay periods per year to 24. (See "Outline of bills submitted to special session".)
"I have always believed that the people of the Virgin Islands are willing to accept sacrifices — even though they feel that this situation could and should have been avoided — as long as it is shared," Christensen said. But, she added, in Turnbull's proposals, "it is not" shared.
She challenged Government House to show how the proposed taxes will not make the territory's fiscal outlook worse, rather than better. "There has to be more justification for increasing our bond indebtedness," she said. "There is nothing that changes our current practices to ensure that later in the year we will not be in the same place again. And then what?"
The delegate also stated that under President Bush's tax cut legislation approved Friday by Congress, the territory stands to receive $6 million to $10 million from the $20 billion grant to states and territories and to win a temporary increase of 5.9 percent in the cap on Medicaid.
"It is clearly not enough to address our fiscal crisis and the impact the tax cut will have on our already precarious situation," Christensen said. The federal tax cut would be applied locally under the territory's mirror system.
She said she hoped to meet with the governor and senators over the Memorial Day congressional recess to talk about a more comprehensive approach to addressing the territory's fiscal crisis.
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