July 14, 2004 – Senators who voted to override the governor's veto of negotiated pay raises for government employees are making "empty promises" in an election year, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg charged on Wednesday.
Donastorg was one of two senators voting against the override measure, which passed 12-2 on Tuesday. The other was Sen. Lorraine Berry. Sen. Usie Richards abstained. (See "Senate Says Workers Will Get Raises".)
The measure, passed by the Legislature in May as part of its fiscal year 2004 supplemental budget bill, appropriates $9 million to pay negotiated wages of unionized employees other than teachers. The funding sources identified in the bill are $5.5 million from payroll reimbursement, $2 million from Waste Management Authority funding and $1.5 million from the General Fund.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in vetoing the measure in June said there is no sustainable funding source for the expenditures. Separate legislation that became law earlier appropriated $2.8 million for teachers' negotiated raises.
Administration officials have been saying all along that "this legislation will negatively impact their ability to pay tax refunds and other obligations," Donastorg said in a release on Wednesday. All Virgin Islanders are affected by the tax-refund issue, he said, and most government employees anticipate a tax refund of some kind.
Many of his colleagues "acknowledged that there was no money to pay these raises; yet they supported this legislation anyway," Donastorg said in a release.
"This is not the first time senators acted to give unfunded pay raises in an election year," he charged. "Their motto is anything for a vote." He added: "Voting for raises the government cannot give is irresponsible, unfair and downright mean-spirited."
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