Sept. 14, 2005 – The Senate Finance Committee in three hours Wednesday morning moved 20 of 22 appropriation bills out of committee to be forwarded to the Senate Rules Committee, but the senators did have concerns.
When Sen. Usie Richards moved to approve the appropriation of $4.8 million from the General Fund to the Finance Department for the Financial Management System upgrade, he said, "I am sick of making these motions."
During a break from the committee activity, he explained that the Senate has made several appropriations previously for this upgrade, but "nothing has happened," He said the administration had assured senators that this would be the last appropriation for the upgrade.
Another bill that brought hesitation was the appropriation from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Funds to the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation and the Department of Public Works to fund festival clean-up.
Sen Juan Figueroa-Serville originally voted against forwarding the measure, but then changed his vote. He at first thought the money would go to the Carnival Committee.
Presently, the Senate has legislation before it that would dissolve the Carnival Committee. Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, sponsor of that legislation, said this appropriation would go specifically to the carnival "not the carnival committee."
Norman Jn Baptiste, chairman of the committee, asked legal counsel and Post Audit representatives, to clarify a couple of the bills.
One concerned the transfer of $13 million from the Transportation Trust Fund to the General Fund. He said, "We are always getting calls about why the roads are not being repaired, yet the money is transferred somewhere else.
He was told that some of this money was being transferred to cover government employees' salaries. He said, "Paying government employees their salaries is a priority with us."
This bill was voted out of the committee, but they second one that he sought further information on, was not. This bill would have suspended payment to the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund. Jn Baptiste said, "As a senator from St. Croix, this concerns me very much." The bill was tabled. Just as the vote concluded, a loud crack of thunder was very audible in the Senate Conference Room in Frederiksted. Jn Baptiste said, "Heaven applauds our action."
The only other bill tabled was one to appropriate $1 million to the Crisis Intervention Fund. It appears that money had already been appropriated.
Another bill that raised concerned, but was forwarded to the Rules Committee concerned the Altona and Castle Burke community development. The bill will make it mandatory that residents of those communities pay their own utility bills.
Richards said that he had talked to residents at Castle Burke and been told that residents there had been paying their utility bills for the last year. He added, "I hope, after the government assumed that burden for four decades, the residents of the St. Thomas development are also now doing the same."
Donastorg did not vote for the bill. He said he was not sure what its impact would be on the disabled and the elderly
Another bill that raised questions from Jn Baptiste was one to provide appropriations from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
This bill showed $350 million in revenues in the St.Thomas/St. John District and $150 in St. Croix. Jn Baptiste asked for a further accounting of those figures. He said that tax revenues from Hovensa and Cruzan Rum alone were over $100 million.
Other bills forwarded to the Rules Committee were:
— to appropriate monies from the Antilitter and Beautification Fund to the Waste Management Authority for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
— to appropriate for operating expenses of the of the Business and Commercial Properties Revolving Fund.
— to appropriate from the Government Insurance Fund for operating expenses of the Finance and Labor Departments for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
— to appropriate a lump-sum appropriation from the Health Revolving Fund for fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
— to provide for a lump-sum appropriation from the Indirect Cost Fund for salaries, operating expenses and for other purposes, for the Office of Management and Budget, the Division of Personnel, Property and Procurement and the Finance Department for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
— to appropriate $3,500 from the interest earned on debts services reserve as a contribution to the General Fund to provide for the operating expenses of the Public Employees Relations Board.
— to appropriate funds to the Public Services Commission for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 for operating expenses.
— to appropriate for operating expenses of the Waste Management Authority from the Sewer Waste Water Fund for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
— to appropriate for operating expenses of the Department of Public Works and the Waste Management Authority from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
— to provide a contribution from the Union Arbitration Award and Government Employees Increment Fund to the General Fund for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
— to appropriate funds to the Taxicab Division of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 for operating expenses.
— to amend title 2 V.I.Code, chapter 2, section 28, subsection (e), relating to the amount of prior year's obligations.
— to amend title 20 V.I. Code, subsection (d), as it relates to taxi medallion auction for veterans, and for other related purposes.
Attending the meeting were: Sens. Jn Baptiste, Donastorg. Juan Figueroa-Serville, Richards, and Ronald Russell.
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