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Governor Asks Senators for Six Percent Budget Increase

Aug. 6, 2007 — Nellie Varlack, the governor’s director of business and administration, appeared before the Legislature Monday to defend a budget request of $8.56 million for the Office of the Governor and its divisions.
That is an increase of $460,000, or a little more than six percent, over last year’s appropriation of $8.1 million. The total budget for the Office of the Governor includes $200,000 in federal funds and $150,000 from the tourism advertising revolving fund, bringing the total to $8.9 million.
The Office of the Governor includes the governor, staff and several divisions not subsumed under other departments. These include the Bureau of Information Technology, the Bureau of Economic Research, Veterans’ Affairs, the Fire Service, the Office of the Adjutant General and, as of this year, the Energy Office. Gov. John deJongh Jr. recently separated the Energy Office from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, placing it within the Office of the Governor.
Most of these entities have separate budgets, which they have already defended to the Finance Committee in separate hearings. The Bureau of Economic Research’s budget comes directly out of the Governor’s Office budget. Its share of the Governor’s Office budget request is $710,000.
Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson asked Bureau Chief Lauritz Mills about the vacant post of chief economic researcher. A low salary had kept the position vacant, but that has been corrected, Mills replied.
“Salaries continue to be an issue across the board in government,” Nelson said. “The same rationale applied to a critical position in the Bureau of Economic Research should be applied to the front-line workers in various government positions. We can’t expect to attract the best minds but not have attractive salaries.”
Sen. Carlton Dowe added that he would like to see preference given to young local college graduates.
There was some discussion of deJongh implementing performance-based budgeting.
“The focus is on performance, is it not, Mr. Simmonds?” asked Sen. James Weber III.
“It is a performance-based budget,” Simmonds said, explaining that each department and agency had met and were putting together performance criteria as part of their budget presentations. “It is a work in progress. We may not have it all done this year.”
The performance measures would give the agencies a guide in their efforts and the Legislature a way to gauge an agency’s effectiveness.
“I notice there is not one measure for the Office of the Governor, Ms. Varlack,” Weber said. “But then the measure of Government House will be, ‘Have you made our life better over the last four years,’ will it not?”
“As it will be for you,” Varlack said.
The hearing was brief and conversational, without acrimony or sharp debate.
“I don’t anticipate the Governor’s Office having any difficulty with their budget request,” said Nelson, finance committee chairman.
Bureau of Information Technology Director John George defended his bureau’s budget request of $4.1 million. Of that amount, $2.8 million is from the General Fund and $1.3 million from the Internal Revenue matching fund, funds the federal IRS remits back to the territory. An additional $600,000 is being requested from the miscellaneous section of the budget to pay for license renewals to Microsoft Corporation.
George said $400,000 of his bureau’s budget would go to pay for Internet service for the entire government. Until now, he said, Internet service had been separate line items within the budgets of numerous agencies, but from here forward would be consolidated in his bureau.
Monday’s committee hearing was informational. The Senate as a whole will debate, amend and vote on the governor’s several budget bills in upcoming budget hearings.
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Aug. 6, 2007 -- Nellie Varlack, the governor’s director of business and administration, appeared before the Legislature Monday to defend a budget request of $8.56 million for the Office of the Governor and its divisions.
That is an increase of $460,000, or a little more than six percent, over last year’s appropriation of $8.1 million. The total budget for the Office of the Governor includes $200,000 in federal funds and $150,000 from the tourism advertising revolving fund, bringing the total to $8.9 million.
The Office of the Governor includes the governor, staff and several divisions not subsumed under other departments. These include the Bureau of Information Technology, the Bureau of Economic Research, Veterans’ Affairs, the Fire Service, the Office of the Adjutant General and, as of this year, the Energy Office. Gov. John deJongh Jr. recently separated the Energy Office from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, placing it within the Office of the Governor.
Most of these entities have separate budgets, which they have already defended to the Finance Committee in separate hearings. The Bureau of Economic Research’s budget comes directly out of the Governor’s Office budget. Its share of the Governor’s Office budget request is $710,000.
Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson asked Bureau Chief Lauritz Mills about the vacant post of chief economic researcher. A low salary had kept the position vacant, but that has been corrected, Mills replied.
“Salaries continue to be an issue across the board in government,” Nelson said. “The same rationale applied to a critical position in the Bureau of Economic Research should be applied to the front-line workers in various government positions. We can’t expect to attract the best minds but not have attractive salaries.”
Sen. Carlton Dowe added that he would like to see preference given to young local college graduates.
There was some discussion of deJongh implementing performance-based budgeting.
“The focus is on performance, is it not, Mr. Simmonds?” asked Sen. James Weber III.
“It is a performance-based budget,” Simmonds said, explaining that each department and agency had met and were putting together performance criteria as part of their budget presentations. “It is a work in progress. We may not have it all done this year.”
The performance measures would give the agencies a guide in their efforts and the Legislature a way to gauge an agency’s effectiveness.
“I notice there is not one measure for the Office of the Governor, Ms. Varlack,” Weber said. “But then the measure of Government House will be, ‘Have you made our life better over the last four years,’ will it not?”
“As it will be for you,” Varlack said.
The hearing was brief and conversational, without acrimony or sharp debate.
“I don’t anticipate the Governor’s Office having any difficulty with their budget request,” said Nelson, finance committee chairman.
Bureau of Information Technology Director John George defended his bureau’s budget request of $4.1 million. Of that amount, $2.8 million is from the General Fund and $1.3 million from the Internal Revenue matching fund, funds the federal IRS remits back to the territory. An additional $600,000 is being requested from the miscellaneous section of the budget to pay for license renewals to Microsoft Corporation.
George said $400,000 of his bureau’s budget would go to pay for Internet service for the entire government. Until now, he said, Internet service had been separate line items within the budgets of numerous agencies, but from here forward would be consolidated in his bureau.
Monday’s committee hearing was informational. The Senate as a whole will debate, amend and vote on the governor’s several budget bills in upcoming budget hearings.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.