May 10, 2004 – The Legislature is scheduled to resume its Friday session at 1 p.m. Tuesday, to pick up where it left off on the assorted amendments appended to the governor's proposed fiscal year 2004 supplemental budget last week in the Finance and Rules Committees.
Friday's legislative session, scheduled for 10 a.m., didn't convene until after 2 p.m. and was from then on given over more to recesses than to deliberations. Senate President David Jones called the final recess at about 10:45 p.m., with the session to resume on Tuesday.
The reason given for the initial delays was that the Senate's legal and post audit staff had not had sufficient time to prepare a new version of the bill incorporating all of the amendments from Thursday's Rules Committee hearing and the May 3 Finance Committee hearing.
Soon after the Senate convened in the afternoon, Sen. Usie Richards protested that copies of the bill as amended had just been handed to the lawmakers, and no one but the Rules Committee members had had a chance to review the measure.
Jones specified in declaring Friday's final recess that when the session resumed on Tuesday, the Senate would vote on any further amendments offered and then on the bill itself.
The administration proposal
The Legislature last November passed its own FY 2004 budget. Turnbull vetoed the bill in its entirety on Dec. 23 and said the FY 2003 budget would remain in force for all FY 2004 — but that he would shortly submit a supplemental budget.
The governor submitted FY 2004 supplemental budget of $590 million on April 5. Major provisions called for:
– $8 million to the Education Department for, among other things, negotiated wages for teachers.
– $2.5 million to the Police Department, $598,000 of it for the Motor Vehicle Bureau.
– $1.4 million for the Justice Department-Corrections Bureau.
– $213,179 to the V.I. Elections System to match a grant received by the federal government.
– $84,000 to the Office of Inspector General.
For a more detailed breakdown, see the last section of this report.
Finance Committee amendments
The Finance Committee amended the bill to appropriate $9.1 million to fund the other union contracts negotiated, including firefighters — funding that had been included in the budget the Senate passed last November. It added other amendments to increase funding to the V.I. Housing Authority and the Motor Vehicle Bureau and to provide scholarship funds for the Board of Vocational Education.
Rules Committee amendments
On Thursday, the Rules Committee also passed the bill — after tacking on further amendments to:
– Appropriate $3 million from the General Fund to the Finance Department for repayment into the Payroll Fund.
– Transfer $500,000 from the General Fund to the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund for litter cleanup.
– Appropriate $500,000 from the General Fund to the Housing, Parks and Recreation Department to fund the St. Croix Swimming Association, V.I. Track and Field Federation, St. Croix Blues Festival, St. Croix Latin Music Festival, V.I. Caribbean Friendship Committee, an expansion of Sunset Jazz and other music and sports events.
– Appropriate $250,000 from the Tourism Revolving Fund for St. John's 50th anniversary Fourth of July Celebration.
– Appropriate $200,000 to the V.I. Basketball Federation.
– Appropriate $65,000 from the General Fund to the Property and Procurement Department for appraisal and structural analysis of St. Croix's Ville La Reine Shopping Center, with an eye to establishing a consolidated government center there.
– Add to the law enacted by veto override on April 26 granting peace-officer status a provision that the status conferred "does not apply to enforcement officers within the Treasury Division of the Department of Finance hired on or after the effective date of this subsection."
– Bring the territory into compliance with the federal Gun Free Schools Act of 1994.
– Provide that no legally constituted business may plead any law against usury as a defense in a legal action instituted to enforce the payment of indebtedness.
Berry seeks another meeting
Sen. Lorraine Berry on Monday sent the media copies of a letter she had written to the governor. She said the "current scenario" for the supplemental budget had taken on "a life of its own" as a political issue with regard to the matter of negotiated wage increases.
Berry said Turnbull had indicated he would veto amendments to his proposed budget and that "an ameliorating amendment offered by a bipartisan group was also viewed with disfavor." She told the governor: "Now, I can see more 'horse-trading' taking place and I can see irresponsible legislation pushed through one offering false hope to government employees only to see their hopes dashed amid backroom horse-trading on ways and means to override your veto." She urged Turnbull to agree to a meeting of the executive and legislative branches to "hammer out a proposal acceptable to all."
She continued: "The Legislature is scheduled to meet tomorrow. I do not believe since last week that tempers have cooled and that the atmosphere will be any more conducive to rational deliberation and dialogue on an issue which has taken a life of its own."
Berry had told her colleagues at Thursday's Rules meeting that while she agreed that deserving employees should receive raises, the $9.1 mllion proposal to fund the negotiated union increases was "foolhardy." With no new revenue sources in place to fund the increases, she said, "this is a recipe for disaster."
On Friday, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, who chairs the Finance Committee, warned his colleagues not to "proceed haphazardly." He said he understands the importance of paying the unionized employees, but the Legislature has to be certain of the funding source for doing so.
Summary of the governor's supplemental budget
The governor's proposal calls for following decreases in funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2004 from the fiscal year 2003 levels:
St. Croix Board of Elections: – $5,676
Board of Education: -$148,373
Office of the Governor: – $220,000
Office of Adjutant General: – $29,416
Office of Veterans Affairs: – $11,958
Office of the Lieutenant Governor: – $258,508
St. Thomas/St. John Hospital Facilities Board: – $457,858
Housing Parks and Recreation: – $458,406
Agriculture Department: – $220,642
Housing Authority grant: – $1,350,000
American Legion Auxiliary Unit 85: – $75,000
American Legion Auxiliary Unit 133: – $75,000
Salary increase government employees: – $4,000,000
Public Television: – $212,596
United Way: – $100,000
Legal Services – CASA program: – $30,000
Law Enforcement Supervisors Union: – $587,000
Paving of road at Plot #5 Pleasant Valley: – $250,000
United Hearts: – $125,000
V.I. Basketball Federation: – $200,000
V.I. Soccer Association/St. Thomas and St. Croix: – $50,000
St. Thomas Cricket Association – Busta Cup: – $25,000
Alvin Williams Trucking, prior year: – $100,000
Royal Sisters Softball Club: – $10,000
School Bus Sports Transportation: – $25,000 each for the high, junior high and middle schools: Bertha C. Boschulte, Charlotte Amalie, Addelita Cancryn, Eudora Kean, Education Complex, Central, Arthur Richards, Elena Christianm and John Woodson.
Education – salaries for fiscal officers for the four public high schools and five junior high/middle schools: – $315,000
Police – for two-way hand radios: – $100,000
Public Works – prior year obligations to Chitolie Truck Service for Hurricane Marilyn-related work: – $90,000
Education – for repairing and improve playground, gymnasium and sports facilities at Claude E. Markoe School: – $75,000
Housing Parks and Recreation – for a recreation facility at Estate Richmond: – $150,000
Public Works – for a sidewalk and recre
ation facility at Mount Pleasant West: – $100,000
Housing Parks and Recreation – for a basketball court and recreation facility at St. George community: – $80,000
Public Works – for correction of pay to Norris Lettsome: – $7,000
Tourism – for cruise ship entertaining: – $30,000
Edna and Pablo Bernardo for reimbursement for reconstruction of a public wall: – $25,000
Blue Marlins Swim Team: – $100,000
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity: – $6,657.72
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority: – $6,657.72
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity: – $6.657.72
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority: – $6,657.71
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity: – $6,657.71
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority: – $6,657.71
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity: – $6,657.71
Construction of a road from Pine Peace basketball court to Estate Enighed (hill): – $100,000
Obligations to Shady Tree for St. John sanitation services, 1997-99: – $80,000
Obligations to Bronx Communications: – $75,000
Lighting for Winston Wells Ball Park: – $50,000
University of the Virgin Islands lump-sum expenses: – $1,452,530
It calls for the following increases in funding:
V.I. Election System: + $213,179
Personnel Division: + $40,000
Justice: + $1,433,409
Licensing and Consumer Affairs: + $5,896
Office of Inspector General: + $84,536
Property and Procurement: + $189,000
Education: + $5,290,826
Human Services: + $2,031,335
Police: + $2,525,192
St. John Dial-A-Ride: + $32,500
St. Croix Dial-A-Ride: + $42,500
Judges' Pension Fund: + $1,500,000
Tax Review Commission: + $175,000
Implement early retirement: + $500,000
Judgments of less than $25,000: + $50,000
Judgments of more than $25,000: + $500,000
V.I. Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, St. Thomas: + $25,000
Education – for school athletic transportation and travel: + $50,000
It calls for the following appropriations from the General Fund:
$200,000 to Property and Procurement, to acquire land for a cemetery on St. Thomas.
$147,850 to the Office of Adjutant General for V.I. National Guard Federal Anti-Deficiency Act Case #97-09
$324,000 to the Office of Information Technology for its operations.
$1,500,000 to upgrade the government financial management system as mandated by the 2002 compliance agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.
$5,690,000 to Finance for repayment of the 1997 FEMA Community Disaster Loan.
$7,000,000 to Finance for repayment to the Payroll Fund.
$750,000 to Property and Procurement for the Workforce Development Center.
$300,000 to Health for prior obligations for Medicaid cost reports.
$250,000 to Housing Parks and Recreation for the Summer Olympics.
$1,500,000 to Education for schoolbooks.
$2,865,000 to Education for prior negotiated union contracts.
$15,000 to the Office of the Governor for Emancipation Day activities.
$135,000 to Public Works for prior year obligations.
$10,000 to the Center for the Betterment of Carenage.
$30,000 to the Homeless Academy for adminsitrative costs.
$225,000 to Roy L. Schneider Hospital for startup of a nursing school.
$200,000 to Juan F. Luis Hospital for startup of a nursing school.
$1,300,000 to the Internal Revenue Bureau for service contracts, maintenance and upgrade of computer equipment.
$33,000 to Agriculture to complete programs established by law.
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