Dec. 23, 2003 – The new year will not bring a 36-hour government work week, a 10 percent income tax surcharge, a gross receipts tax increase, two property tax billings, or retroactive raises for firemen, police, teachers and other unionized government workers.
The above proposals which had been on the table from the administration or the Legislature during the long fiscal year 2004 budget-making process have been rejected out of hand by the governor.
Instead, the territory will be operating on the fiscal year 2003 budget, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull said on Tuesday in announcing that he had vetoed the Legislature's FY 2004 budget in its entirety.
The governor said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that his financial advisers had shown him that if he approved the budget passed by the Legislature on Nov. 24, "we would have a $75 million deficit by 2004, which would continue all the way to 2008." Therefore, Turnbull said, he found the budget "unacceptable."
"I can't in good conscience approve it," he said. "We can't continue uncontrolled spending. We are over-obligated. The property tax would have had three payments in one fiscal year, not two." He did not clarify the meaning of this comment.
With his veto of the FY 2004 budget, the governor said, "the previous year's budget is considered re-appropriated" as set forth in the Revised Organic Act. He added that "in the very near future" he will submit to the Legislature "supplemental appropriations supported by recurring revenues so that departments and agencies can continue to operate."
He said that the government "must exercise discipline in 2004. We wish we could fund all the raises. And as soon as the economy improves and there are funds to cover, this will be done."
Turnbull also took the occasion of the press conference to reiterate earlier statements that he strongly opposes Delegate Donna M. Christensen's federal legislation calling for the creation of a chief financial officer for the territory, as well as any outside financial control board taking charge of the territory's fiscal affairs.
We are our own control board," he said to almost deafening applause from his assembled cabinet and other top aides, numbering 50 or so in the audience at Government House on St. Thomas, where the press conference was held.
As of 10 p.m., Government House had not forwarded to the news media copies of either the governor's statement or what was reported to be a five-page letter from Turnbull to Senate President David Jones outlining his veto action. The documents were to have been forwarded to the media late in the afternoon, according to government house public information officers.
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