June 8, 2004 – In near-final action on the government's fiscal year 2004 budget, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull sent back to the Legislature on Tuesday his vetoed version of what the Senate had sent him on May 25 — its heavily amended version of the supplemental budget submitted by the governor that the lawmakers had passed on May 11.
It has been a checkered road traveled since last December, when Turnbull vetoed in its entirety the FY 2004 budget passed by the Legislature, announced that the FY 2003 budget would carry over for all of 2004, and said he would submit a supplemental budget soon thereafter. The supplemental budget arrived at the Senate on May 3 and is back again now for consideration of Turnbull's objections.
The 2004 fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
As anticipated by most lawmakers, Turnbull vetoed the appropriations the Senate approved to fund pay raises negotiated for union employees as much as two years ago. The governor had vetoed similar appropriations last December and once before, early in 2003. On Tuesday in his cover letter to Senate President David Jones, he raised the same objection that he has raised before: There is no sustainable funding source for the expenditures.This does not affect the $2.8 million Turnbull proposed for teachers in his original budget. It is approved.
Given the most recent revenue projections, Turnbull told Jones, "It is unwise, dishonest and unfair to our unionized employees to enact raises that cannot be sustained and may have to be rescinded."
Jones wasn't buying it. He responded on Tuesday afternoon that "It is dishonest, unwise and unfair to continue to ask the union employees whom they negotiated the contracts with in good faith to continue to wait for the contracts to be honored. The $9 million for the contracts is a very small investment in our workers — the unionized police, firemen, teachers, health workers, secretaries; some of those people are making $15,000 a year with a family of four. They are at the bottom."
He continued: "We have got to stop balancing the budget on the backs of the government employees. How long are we going to continue to do this? Families have obligations; disposable income continues to shrink. The very same employees would increase production and be happy [with a raise]. WAPA is going up, the phone service, and now property taxes coming out this week. It's insensitive, and I will not be party to that legislation."
Predicting what will happen next, Jones added "How do you spell relief? Override."
He said he personally will move for an override of the veto. "At this point, I am looking at parity for the police officers, the firemen, the nurses, assistant attorneys general and Education," he said. (See "Supplemental Budget Passes; Unions win Raises".)
Jones disagrees with Turnbull's priorities in funding sources for the raises. The Legislature appropriated $9 million to cover the raises: $5.5 million from payroll reimbursement, $2 million from Waste Management Authority funding and $1.5 million from the General Fund.
Turnbull says using the $5.5 million will "create financial havoc and cause payless paydays." Jones says not so, adding "This has been going on for years." Jones said the Legislature and the governor simply have different priorities: "His are the payroll and the Waste Management Authority. Ours are to pay the union employees."
Also of little surprise, the governor vetoed another item that would restrict executive branch control of budget finances. The Senate has taken serious issue in the past with Office of Management and Budget interference with legislative appropriations.
The supplemental budget version passed by the Legislature provides that neither the OMB director nor anyone else in the executive branch may withhold, reduce or otherwise alter the operating budgets of, or any appropriations to, the Legislature or Territorial Courts.
The governor chided the Senate for dipping into Waste Management Authority funds. "I will not support any effort to sideline the authority as we attempt to implement this new environmental program and comply with the court orders," Turnbull said. "These monies are needed for the start-up costs of the authority. In fact, a portion of the appropriation has already been spent."
Other sections of the supplemental budget that the governor vetoed include an increase for the Police Department and a prohibition of business entities claiming usury in civil actions under certain circumstances. The Source will publish a more detailed review of the governor's supplemental budget actions on Wednesday.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.