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HomeNewsArchivesSenate Closes Shop, Leaving Governor's Bills for 28th Legislature

Senate Closes Shop, Leaving Governor's Bills for 28th Legislature

Dec. 1, 2008 — While senators were expected to take action Monday on bills recently sent down by the governor to amend the fiscal year 2009 budget and authorize the issuance of up to $400 million in new gross-receipts tax bonds, they instead decided to leave those decisions to the incoming 28th Legislature.
The revised budget bill was sent down early Monday morning by Gov. John deJongh Jr. But members of the governor's financial team have been saying for months that a "realigned" spending plan is needed — one that would reflect a drop in the government's revenue projections and include funding for items omitted during the Senate's budget markup process. The new budget totals $837 million instead of the $842 million budget deJongh signed into law in mid-October.
At previous Senate hearings, financial team members have said the FY 2009 budget passed by senators does not, among other things, fully fund:
— salary increases implemented during FY 2008;
— a three-percent increase in the government's contribution to the Government Employees' Retirement System; or
— the recently approved government health-insurance contract, which covers all government employees, retirees and their dependents. (See "Government Could Face $80 Million Deficit, Governor Says.")
"In addition to the reduction of expenditures, this submission reflects certain changes to the appropriations made to various departments, agencies, instrumentalities and the miscellaneous budget to ensure that critical items are addressed with priority," deJongh wrote Monday in a letter sent to Senate President Usie R. Richards along with the revised budget bill.
The governor lamented some cuts he cited as necessary.
"The changes made by this measure are not made to indicate that any previously approved items are not worthy of government funding," deJongh wrote. "Indeed, I very much regret having to decrease funding to several community-service entities … however, at this juncture, the reality of the worldwide economic crisis, and its direct and indirect effects on our local economy, cannot be ignored, and therefore requires that we begin to align our spending patterns to fit this financial picture."
But senators said during a full session Monday that they had anticipated the need for revisions when the budget was approved in September, and had figured that the government's revenue projections would likely change again by the end of the first quarter of FY 2009, giving them a better picture of what kind of money the government would have in hand to fund the items in the budget.
"The revised budget bill was also received by my office around 8:18 a.m." Monday, Richards said after the session was adjourned sine die around 4:19 p.m. "I didn't know what we were supposed to do with it, unless the governor wants us to be here until January."
Financial team members also met with senators during a Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this month to discuss the $400-million bond issue, which they said would finance a variety of territory-wide capital-improvement projects that could help stave off a full-blown economic recession by putting cash back on the street, creating hundreds of jobs and stimulating local business activity. Though financial team members have said it's not likely the first set of bonds would be issued before the start of the year, they also explained that a full authorization from the senate is needed immediately so the government doesn't miss any opportunities that would allow it to access the financial markets. (See "Senate Urged to Approve Bond Plan to Stimulate Local Economy.")
"It was apparent from the Committee of the Whole hearing that we had that a number of senators still had a lot of concerns that have not been addressed," Richards said after the session, when asked why senators had decided not to act on the bond authorization. "I think it would have been inappropriate to push it through on the short agenda today."
All senators were present during Monday's session.
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Dec. 1, 2008 -- While senators were expected to take action Monday on bills recently sent down by the governor to amend the fiscal year 2009 budget and authorize the issuance of up to $400 million in new gross-receipts tax bonds, they instead decided to leave those decisions to the incoming 28th Legislature.
The revised budget bill was sent down early Monday morning by Gov. John deJongh Jr. But members of the governor's financial team have been saying for months that a "realigned" spending plan is needed -- one that would reflect a drop in the government's revenue projections and include funding for items omitted during the Senate's budget markup process. The new budget totals $837 million instead of the $842 million budget deJongh signed into law in mid-October.
At previous Senate hearings, financial team members have said the FY 2009 budget passed by senators does not, among other things, fully fund:
-- salary increases implemented during FY 2008;
-- a three-percent increase in the government's contribution to the Government Employees' Retirement System; or
-- the recently approved government health-insurance contract, which covers all government employees, retirees and their dependents. (See "Government Could Face $80 Million Deficit, Governor Says.")
"In addition to the reduction of expenditures, this submission reflects certain changes to the appropriations made to various departments, agencies, instrumentalities and the miscellaneous budget to ensure that critical items are addressed with priority," deJongh wrote Monday in a letter sent to Senate President Usie R. Richards along with the revised budget bill.
The governor lamented some cuts he cited as necessary.
"The changes made by this measure are not made to indicate that any previously approved items are not worthy of government funding," deJongh wrote. "Indeed, I very much regret having to decrease funding to several community-service entities ... however, at this juncture, the reality of the worldwide economic crisis, and its direct and indirect effects on our local economy, cannot be ignored, and therefore requires that we begin to align our spending patterns to fit this financial picture."
But senators said during a full session Monday that they had anticipated the need for revisions when the budget was approved in September, and had figured that the government's revenue projections would likely change again by the end of the first quarter of FY 2009, giving them a better picture of what kind of money the government would have in hand to fund the items in the budget.
"The revised budget bill was also received by my office around 8:18 a.m." Monday, Richards said after the session was adjourned sine die around 4:19 p.m. "I didn't know what we were supposed to do with it, unless the governor wants us to be here until January."
Financial team members also met with senators during a Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this month to discuss the $400-million bond issue, which they said would finance a variety of territory-wide capital-improvement projects that could help stave off a full-blown economic recession by putting cash back on the street, creating hundreds of jobs and stimulating local business activity. Though financial team members have said it's not likely the first set of bonds would be issued before the start of the year, they also explained that a full authorization from the senate is needed immediately so the government doesn't miss any opportunities that would allow it to access the financial markets. (See "Senate Urged to Approve Bond Plan to Stimulate Local Economy.")
"It was apparent from the Committee of the Whole hearing that we had that a number of senators still had a lot of concerns that have not been addressed," Richards said after the session, when asked why senators had decided not to act on the bond authorization. "I think it would have been inappropriate to push it through on the short agenda today."
All senators were present during Monday'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.