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Senate Cuts $100M, Passes 2009 Budget

Sept. 18, 2008 — Eyeing a projected decrease in real property tax collections and a continuing slowdown in the national economy, senators decided Thursday to slash the governor's proposed fiscal year 2009 General Fund budget by more than $100 million.
The final budget stands at approximately $766.5 million, which covers the budgets of all central government departments and agencies, the Legislature, the judicial system, WTJX Channel 12 and the University of the Virgin Islands, according to Finance Committee chairman Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson.
Emerging from the markup process after months of budget hearings, the Senate's majority caucus — acting on Nelson's recommendations — made the decision to cut 15 percent of the funded vacant positions included in the executive budget, Senate President Usie R. Richards said after the budget passed unanimously in Thursday's full legislative session.
When it was submitted by Gov. John deJongh Jr. at the end of May, the budget totaled some $867.3 million. During Thursday's session, senators introduced an amendment in the nature of a substitute to deJongh's budget bill, which laid out a total General Fund budget of about $560.5 million for central government departments and agencies. Senators also passed a $5 million budget for the V.I. Supreme Court; a $26.6 million budget for the V.I. Superior Court; $300,000 for the Judicial Council; $3 million for the Public Defender's Office; and a $20.5 million budget for the Legislature.
In the amended budget, cuts to some departments and agencies range from $1 million to $5 million. For a few entities, such as the boards of education and elections, senators stayed close to the governor's recommendations, only deleting a few thousand dollars from the proposed appropriations.
The miscellaneous section of the budget — which initially totaled some $132.9 million in the governor's initial budget recommendation and has now climbed to $142.5 million — also decreases appropriations for various organizations and youth groups, along with agencies such as the Economic Development Authority, whose miscellaneous appropriation was slashed from about $4.5 million to a little over $4 million.
"The majority caucus recognized that there will be a reduction in revenues collected not only through property taxes, but as a result of a slowdown in the national economy as a whole," Richards said after the session. "We decided not to go far and beyond what was recommended in FY 2008 at the executive level…and kept it at a bare-bones level to ensure that we maintain control of the purse strings."
The budget will be reassessed after the first quarter of FY 2009 — if projections are up, then supplemental appropriations or budget increases will be considered, Nelson added later.
"This is not to spite the administration," he said. "It's about the Legislature finally becoming fiscally prudent."
A majority of departments and agencies have modified line-item budgets — meaning that the bill clearly delineates how much money can be used for certain expenses, such as personnel or utility costs. Some government entities, such as the Legislature and the Department of Human Services, have lump-sum budgets, which allow officials to use money as needed to cover expenses in various budget categories.
Recommended budget appropriations are now as follows:
— Education: $180.5 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $188.6 million);
— Police: $58.9 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $62.9 million);
— Human Services: approximately $56 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $60.8 million);
— Health: nearly $35.8 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $41 million);
— Justice: about $35.5 million (down from the $40 million initially proposed in the governor's budget);
— Schneider Regional Medical Center: $28.9 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $32.4 million);
— Public Works: $28.3 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $30.6 million);
— Juan F. Luis Hospital: nearly $24.6 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $27.5 million);
— Fire Services: $17.8 million (down from the initial $19.4 million budget recommendation);
— IRB: about $10.9 million (down from the an initial budget recommendation of $11.5 million);
— Office of the Governor: $8.5 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $10.4 million);
— Planning and Natural Resources: nearly $8 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $8.9 million);
— Office of Lt. Governor: about $6.5 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $8.6 million);
— Finance: nearly $8.5 million (up from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $7.4 million);
— Property and Procurement: about $6.4 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $6.7 million);
— Labor: $6.1 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $6.6 million);
— Personnel: $3.9 million (down from the initial budget recommendation of $4.3 million);
— Tourism: about $3.7 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $3.9 million);
— Licensing, Consumer Affairs: $3.2 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $3.7 million);
— Agriculture: nearly $3.4 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $3.6 million);
— Office of Management and Budget: $3.3 million (up from an initial budget recommendation of a little more than $3 million);
— Bureau of Information Technology: about $2.8 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of approximately $3 million);
— Board of Education: $2.6 million, down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $2.7 million (the miscellaneous section of the budget, however, appropriates an additional $100,000 to the board to cover scholarships for prospective nursing students at the University of the Virgin Islands);
— Bureau of Motor Vehicles: $2.4 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of about $2.6 million);
— Adjutant General: $2.1 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $2.3 million);
— Inspector General: approximately $1.7 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of nearly $2 million);
— Election System: about $1.3 million (down slightly from an initial $1.4 million budget appropriation);
— Veteran's Affairs: $395,580 (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $414,000); and
— Boards of Elections: $209,182 (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $217,000).
Senators also pushed through the rest of the FY 2009 budget bills during Thursday's session, the majority of which transfer money from various government funds to the General Fund or to various departments and agencies to cover specific FY 2009 expenses.
All senators were present during Thursday's session.

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Sept. 18, 2008 -- Eyeing a projected decrease in real property tax collections and a continuing slowdown in the national economy, senators decided Thursday to slash the governor's proposed fiscal year 2009 General Fund budget by more than $100 million.
The final budget stands at approximately $766.5 million, which covers the budgets of all central government departments and agencies, the Legislature, the judicial system, WTJX Channel 12 and the University of the Virgin Islands, according to Finance Committee chairman Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson.
Emerging from the markup process after months of budget hearings, the Senate's majority caucus -- acting on Nelson's recommendations -- made the decision to cut 15 percent of the funded vacant positions included in the executive budget, Senate President Usie R. Richards said after the budget passed unanimously in Thursday's full legislative session.
When it was submitted by Gov. John deJongh Jr. at the end of May, the budget totaled some $867.3 million. During Thursday's session, senators introduced an amendment in the nature of a substitute to deJongh's budget bill, which laid out a total General Fund budget of about $560.5 million for central government departments and agencies. Senators also passed a $5 million budget for the V.I. Supreme Court; a $26.6 million budget for the V.I. Superior Court; $300,000 for the Judicial Council; $3 million for the Public Defender's Office; and a $20.5 million budget for the Legislature.
In the amended budget, cuts to some departments and agencies range from $1 million to $5 million. For a few entities, such as the boards of education and elections, senators stayed close to the governor's recommendations, only deleting a few thousand dollars from the proposed appropriations.
The miscellaneous section of the budget -- which initially totaled some $132.9 million in the governor's initial budget recommendation and has now climbed to $142.5 million -- also decreases appropriations for various organizations and youth groups, along with agencies such as the Economic Development Authority, whose miscellaneous appropriation was slashed from about $4.5 million to a little over $4 million.
"The majority caucus recognized that there will be a reduction in revenues collected not only through property taxes, but as a result of a slowdown in the national economy as a whole," Richards said after the session. "We decided not to go far and beyond what was recommended in FY 2008 at the executive level…and kept it at a bare-bones level to ensure that we maintain control of the purse strings."
The budget will be reassessed after the first quarter of FY 2009 -- if projections are up, then supplemental appropriations or budget increases will be considered, Nelson added later.
"This is not to spite the administration," he said. "It's about the Legislature finally becoming fiscally prudent."
A majority of departments and agencies have modified line-item budgets -- meaning that the bill clearly delineates how much money can be used for certain expenses, such as personnel or utility costs. Some government entities, such as the Legislature and the Department of Human Services, have lump-sum budgets, which allow officials to use money as needed to cover expenses in various budget categories.
Recommended budget appropriations are now as follows:
-- Education: $180.5 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $188.6 million);
-- Police: $58.9 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $62.9 million);
-- Human Services: approximately $56 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $60.8 million);
-- Health: nearly $35.8 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $41 million);
-- Justice: about $35.5 million (down from the $40 million initially proposed in the governor's budget);
-- Schneider Regional Medical Center: $28.9 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $32.4 million);
-- Public Works: $28.3 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $30.6 million);
-- Juan F. Luis Hospital: nearly $24.6 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $27.5 million);
-- Fire Services: $17.8 million (down from the initial $19.4 million budget recommendation);
-- IRB: about $10.9 million (down from the an initial budget recommendation of $11.5 million);
-- Office of the Governor: $8.5 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $10.4 million);
-- Planning and Natural Resources: nearly $8 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $8.9 million);
-- Office of Lt. Governor: about $6.5 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $8.6 million);
-- Finance: nearly $8.5 million (up from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $7.4 million);
-- Property and Procurement: about $6.4 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $6.7 million);
-- Labor: $6.1 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $6.6 million);
-- Personnel: $3.9 million (down from the initial budget recommendation of $4.3 million);
-- Tourism: about $3.7 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $3.9 million);
-- Licensing, Consumer Affairs: $3.2 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $3.7 million);
-- Agriculture: nearly $3.4 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $3.6 million);
-- Office of Management and Budget: $3.3 million (up from an initial budget recommendation of a little more than $3 million);
-- Bureau of Information Technology: about $2.8 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of approximately $3 million);
-- Board of Education: $2.6 million, down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $2.7 million (the miscellaneous section of the budget, however, appropriates an additional $100,000 to the board to cover scholarships for prospective nursing students at the University of the Virgin Islands);
-- Bureau of Motor Vehicles: $2.4 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of about $2.6 million);
-- Adjutant General: $2.1 million (down from an initial budget recommendation of $2.3 million);
-- Inspector General: approximately $1.7 million (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of nearly $2 million);
-- Election System: about $1.3 million (down slightly from an initial $1.4 million budget appropriation);
-- Veteran's Affairs: $395,580 (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $414,000); and
-- Boards of Elections: $209,182 (down from the governor's initial budget recommendation of $217,000).
Senators also pushed through the rest of the FY 2009 budget bills during Thursday's session, the majority of which transfer money from various government funds to the General Fund or to various departments and agencies to cover specific FY 2009 expenses.
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.