Oct. 1, 2004 Emotions ran deep and tempers flared Friday at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, but no budget emerged.
As the day turned to evening Senate President David Jones recessed the session until Monday, after the body managed to approve 16 of the budget bills before them.
But those bills may have to be revisited, Sen. Celestino White said.
"This is a total disaster and embarrassment," White said. "Figures seem to be way out of whack."
Jones said the recess was called because Office of Management and Budget Director Ira Mills informed Sen. Lorraine Berry Friday afternoon that with all the Legislature's cuts to the budget sent down by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, funds to pay the insurance on government-owned property were coming up short.
Berry said the amount of money needed for the property insurance was to the tune of $957,900.
Jones said the budget would now have to be redone to account for the money.
"We're checking the figures to make sure we didn't miss anything," Jones said. "There is no rush because we're already in the fiscal year."
The FY 2005 budget was supposed to have taken effect Friday, the start of the new fiscal year. But once again, the 25th Legislature has failed to approve a budget before the Sept. 30 deadline. The government is now operating on the FY 2004 budget, which is, in essence the 2003 budget plus a supplemental budget.
Despite the bad news, some senators seemed upbeat, claiming the territory was realizing increased revenues and whatever budget was passed would sustain itself.
Sen. Luther Renee urged his colleagues to research the territory's gross domestic product. Renee said he has been "the lone voice in the wilderness" advocating for the use of the Bureau of Economic Research to study the territory's gross domestic product.
"How can you plan, except you research the gross domestic product?" Renee said, adding that the territory is the only "country" he knows that doesn't use the GDP to determine economic growth.
The senators approved 16 of the 23 budget bills in block with a closed rule, meaning no amendments could be added to them. Several senators said they would motion to open at least one of the bills, though none brought the motion forward.
Here is a listing of the bills approved by the body:
-A bill appropriating $1.6 million from the Bureau and Commercial Properties Revolving Fund to the Department of Property and Procurement's business and commercial properties administration for wages and other operating expenses.
-A bill appropriating $27.5 million to the University of the Virgin Islands for FY 2005.
-A bill appropriating $2.3 million from the Government Insurance Fund for expenses, including wages of salaried employees of the Department of Finance, Office of the Custodian and the Department of Labor, division of Occupational Safety and Health and the division of Workmen's Compensation.
-A bill appropriating a lump-sum budget of $1.7 million from the Health Revolving Fund to the Department of Health.
-A bill appropriating $4.5 million from the Indirect Cost Fund for the Office of Management and Budget, the Division of Personnel, the Department of Property and Procurement and the Department of Finance.
-A bill appropriating $57.6 million from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the General Fund.
-A bill appropriating $6.6 million from the Caribbean Basin Initiative Fund to the General Fund.
-A bill appropriating $3.1 million from the Anti-litter and Beautification Fund to the Department of Public Works.
-A bill appropriating $370,217 from the Taxi License Fund to the V.I. Taxicab Division for operating expenses.
-A bill appropriating $940,000 from the Sewage System Fund to the Department of Public Works.
-A bill appropriating $13 million from the Transportation Trust Fund to the General Fund.
-A bill appropriating $869,079 from the Public Services Commission Revolving Fund to the PSC.
-A bill appropriating $1.5 million from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund to the Department of Public Works.
-A bill appropriating $1.9 million from the Tourism Advertisement Revolving Fund to the Housing, Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Police departments
-A bill appropriating $500,000 for the operating expenses of the Public Employees Relation Board.
$75,000 for the Labor Management Committee and $25,000 for the Board of election to conduct research on election reform, all from the Union Arbitration andGovernment Employee Increment Fund.
-A bill suspending the annual appropriation of $2 million from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund for FY 2005.
Some of these bills may have to be revisited when the Senate takes another stab at the budget Monday.
All senators were present at Friday's proceedings.
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