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HomeNewsArchivesProposal to Pay WAPA $25 Million Falls Short in Senate

Proposal to Pay WAPA $25 Million Falls Short in Senate

Dec. 6, 2007 — "We know Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat, please put $25 million in the old man's hat," Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. said Thursday, as senators attempted to pass an amendment that would take $25 million from the government's coffers to pay WAPA.
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Basil Ottley Jr., attempted to take the money out of the government's cash reserves — money in the bank — which members of the governor's financial team recently said totaled upwards of $200 million. Ottley and other members of the minority explained that the money would help to mitigate the financial impact of a recent levelized energy-adjustment clause (LEAC) increase recently enacted by the Public Services Commission.
Though the amendment failed to get enough votes to pass through the full legislative body, the idea of getting the government to reduce its energy costs was frequently mentioned throughout Thursday's session. An amendment from Sen. Juan-Figueroa Serville that sought to put a one-year freeze on LEAC rates also failed to make it through. But an amendment sponsored by Sen. Louis P. Hill that mandates the government reduce its utility bill by 20 percent over the next four years passed without any objections.
"This government has never really looked seriously at the efficiency and use of energy," Hill said. "While the government does have to pay its utility bills, it also has a responsibility to conserve energy, so we're going to mandate that the government begin to reduce its energy costs."
The amendment was tacked onto a bill that moves the V.I. Energy Office from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to the Office of the Governor.
A majority of other amendments approved Thursday were tacked onto a bill that increased the annual contribution rate paid by the V.I. Water and Power Authority to the Government Employees' Retirement System. The bill also places the V.I. Cultural Heritage Institute under the Department of Planning and Natural Resources for budgetary purposes only, and allows the V.I. police commissioner to employ retired police officers on a contractual basis, if necessary.
Most amendments tacked onto the bill make appropriations from the General Fund to various government departments and agencies, along with community groups and organizations. Others, such as amendments sponsored by Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste and James Weber III, made sweeping policy changes, such as repealing the ability of the V.I. Waste Management Authority to implement environmental user fees (EUF).
While Sen. Ronald E. Russell pointed out that the authority's EUF proposal was recently turned down by the Public Services Commission, Jn Baptiste argued that WMA was just "sent back to the drawing board," and could potentially come back with another proposal that would financially impact V.I. residents.
"If we think that's the last we've heard about the user fee, we're wrong," Jn Baptiste said. "It can return, and we have to see that this fee is a bad idea turned worse."
The amendment passed, along with Weber's amendment to authorize the PSC to grant eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) status to wireless providers.
"We want to empower the PSC to actually grant ETC status to companies that apply for it," Weber said, saying that companies such as Centennial Communications would be then be able to apply for federal universal-service funds, which can be used to increase the number of cell sites throughout the territory.
"The PSC said that they didn't have the right to actually grant these ETC petitions, and were giving it to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to deal with," he added. "So we want to make sure that we make sure the PSC can certify these wireless carriers."
Other significant amendments approved Thursday:
— state that all fines levied and collected for traffic violations be divided between the V.I. Police Department (which will get 35 percent of the funds), the judicial branch (which will get 15 percent of the funds) and the General Fund (which will get 50 percent);
— amend laws already on the books to allow for the construction of a high school on St. John; and
— turn over the management of Lindqvist Beach on St. Thomas to the Magens Bay Authority.
All senators were present during Thursday's session.
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Dec. 6, 2007 -- "We know Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat, please put $25 million in the old man's hat," Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. said Thursday, as senators attempted to pass an amendment that would take $25 million from the government's coffers to pay WAPA.
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Basil Ottley Jr., attempted to take the money out of the government's cash reserves -- money in the bank -- which members of the governor's financial team recently said totaled upwards of $200 million. Ottley and other members of the minority explained that the money would help to mitigate the financial impact of a recent levelized energy-adjustment clause (LEAC) increase recently enacted by the Public Services Commission.
Though the amendment failed to get enough votes to pass through the full legislative body, the idea of getting the government to reduce its energy costs was frequently mentioned throughout Thursday's session. An amendment from Sen. Juan-Figueroa Serville that sought to put a one-year freeze on LEAC rates also failed to make it through. But an amendment sponsored by Sen. Louis P. Hill that mandates the government reduce its utility bill by 20 percent over the next four years passed without any objections.
"This government has never really looked seriously at the efficiency and use of energy," Hill said. "While the government does have to pay its utility bills, it also has a responsibility to conserve energy, so we're going to mandate that the government begin to reduce its energy costs."
The amendment was tacked onto a bill that moves the V.I. Energy Office from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to the Office of the Governor.
A majority of other amendments approved Thursday were tacked onto a bill that increased the annual contribution rate paid by the V.I. Water and Power Authority to the Government Employees' Retirement System. The bill also places the V.I. Cultural Heritage Institute under the Department of Planning and Natural Resources for budgetary purposes only, and allows the V.I. police commissioner to employ retired police officers on a contractual basis, if necessary.
Most amendments tacked onto the bill make appropriations from the General Fund to various government departments and agencies, along with community groups and organizations. Others, such as amendments sponsored by Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste and James Weber III, made sweeping policy changes, such as repealing the ability of the V.I. Waste Management Authority to implement environmental user fees (EUF).
While Sen. Ronald E. Russell pointed out that the authority's EUF proposal was recently turned down by the Public Services Commission, Jn Baptiste argued that WMA was just "sent back to the drawing board," and could potentially come back with another proposal that would financially impact V.I. residents.
"If we think that's the last we've heard about the user fee, we're wrong," Jn Baptiste said. "It can return, and we have to see that this fee is a bad idea turned worse."
The amendment passed, along with Weber's amendment to authorize the PSC to grant eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) status to wireless providers.
"We want to empower the PSC to actually grant ETC status to companies that apply for it," Weber said, saying that companies such as Centennial Communications would be then be able to apply for federal universal-service funds, which can be used to increase the number of cell sites throughout the territory.
"The PSC said that they didn't have the right to actually grant these ETC petitions, and were giving it to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to deal with," he added. "So we want to make sure that we make sure the PSC can certify these wireless carriers."
Other significant amendments approved Thursday:
-- state that all fines levied and collected for traffic violations be divided between the V.I. Police Department (which will get 35 percent of the funds), the judicial branch (which will get 15 percent of the funds) and the General Fund (which will get 50 percent);
-- amend laws already on the books to allow for the construction of a high school on St. John; and
-- turn over the management of Lindqvist Beach on St. Thomas to the Magens Bay Authority.
All senators were present during Thursday's session.
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.