Nov. 27, 2003 Gov. Charles Turnbull told the Source on Wednesday that he will take his veto pen to sections of the fiscal year 2004 budget. He also expressed his disappointment that Delegate Donna M. Christensen is pushing for federal involvement in local affairs by pushing a bill creating a chief financial officer for the Virgin Islands.
Turnbull said that although he has yet to take a close look at the massive $627 million budget passed by the 25th Legislature earlier this week, his "initial impressions" are that the budget contains many spending items that "cannot be sustained" by the cash-strapped government.
"Many things must be vetoed," Turnbull said. "There are several items there that have to be vetoed. We have to be responsible in these difficult financial times."
The governor said that the executive branch and the legislative branch are responsible for the financial management of the territory, and that a CFO is not necessary.
"I continue to be strongly against it," the governor said. "Many governors in the states are facing similar situations and I don't hear anyone calling for a CFO for any place in the states. We have our own situation here and we will have to get ourselves out of it."
Christensen introduced a bill in the House of Representatives last Friday that would create an officer with authority to veto any spending the local government cannot afford to ensure the territory does not continue to live beyond its means.
Under the bill, a seven-member search commission chaired by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton would review candidates for the new position and nominate three individuals for the approval of the governor and the senate.
The CFO would serve a term of five years, at which time the territory would once again retake the reins of its financial affairs.
Turnbull said Christensen's responsibility as the territory's elected representative in Congress is to push for more self-governance in the Virgin Islands. Christensen has negated that responsibility by proposing to create a position overseen in part by the Department of the Interior and will oversee the functions of the director of the Office of Management and Budget and control all spending in the territory, he said.
The governor said that instead of allowing government leaders to find solutions to the territory's financial problems, Christensen is dragging the Virgin Islands "back into the 19th century" by attempting to bring federal officials into local-government affairs.
Kenneth Mapp, executive director of the Public Finance Authority, said Christensen's comments in the media have hampered efforts to sell bonds and to carry out projects supported by the PFA.
Mapp said although bond investors and market analysts have praised the local government for attempting to become more financially responsible, media reports and the delegate's comments continue to make things more difficult.
"The delegates proposal for a CFO certainly flies in the face of [the governor's] attempts to go before the market and show that we have made progress in bringing our financial house in order," Mapp said. "The irresponsible actions of these people are hampering our efforts to achieve a better life for all of us in the Virgin Islands."
Office of Management and Budget Director Ira Mills echoed the governor's sentiments, saying that the financial problems of the Virgin Islands should be solved from within.
"The challenges that we face those challenges do not reside in one person. Those challenges reside in the system and we are moving forward in meeting those challenges," Mills said.
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