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Broke Or No, Senate OKs Raft Of Appropriations

May 29, 2009 — There's a difference between the government being broke and flat broke, one senator asserted Friday, as he called for the approval of an amendment pulling $250,000 from the General Fund to cover the cost of dialysis equipment and services provided by the territory's two hospitals.
When asked by Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly where the money would be coming from, since the government is currently projecting a $188 million budget shortfall this year, Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. responded, "The money comes from the authority vested in this Legislature to appropriate money from the General Fund."
He added later that the money would come from the savings realized from another bill that senators failed to pass during Friday's full session that creates an annual scholarship award for local valedictorians and salutatorians. This bill would have cost the government more than $3 million at the end of four years, according to Jose George, the Legislature's post auditor.
White's $250,000 amendment was tacked onto a bill that originally contained one $500,000 appropriation from the General Fund to Human Services to expand their home- and community-based support services for senior citizens 60 years and older. But an amendment tacked on during a recent Rules and Judiciary Committee meeting added another $400,000 to the V.I Board of Education for nursing scholarships.
On Friday, another $250,000 amendment from Sen. Michael Thurland appropriated an additional $150,000 during FY 2009 and $500,000 in FY 2010 from internal revenue matching funds — or the territory's rum revenues — as a grant to Wheel Coach Inc to cover transportation costs for dialysis patients two and from the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and the V.I. Kidney Center.
While Rivera-O'Reilly said the scholarship bill would have allowed students to study abroad and pursue a degree in a range of different fields instead of just nursing, other contended that the money would be better spent expanding programs at the University of the Virgin Islands. Senators, including Rivera-O'Reilly, instead decided to back the Human Services Bill, which in total, seeks to appropriate about $1.1 million from the General Fund this fiscal year.
"There's broke and then there's flat broke, dead broke," White joked. "So when the word is used, it doesn't mean the wheels stop turning. The Legislature determines the spending plan for the government."
The bill also allows money appropriated two years ago to the Health Department to cover the cost of "antiviral flu vaccine for the Bird Flu" to be used for antivirals, testing kits and other resources for pandemic diseases such as the swine flu.
Senators also approved a bill Friday authorizing the Public Finance Authority to issue an up to $50 million loan guarantee for a major St. Thomas development, using any money available in the Internal Revenue Matching Fund or any other government fund. The government's loan guarantee would help Wintdots Development — a limited liability company owned by the Elskoe family — secure a lower interest rate on a construction loan and provide their lender, Connecticut-based Greenwich Financial Partners, with some financial re-enforcement in case of emergency.
The family is using their property — bordered by Estate Thomas on the north, Frenchman's Bay on the south and Paradise Point on the east — as the site for a set of luxury condominiums, timeshare units and a 40-room boutique hotel, among other things. (See "50M Loan Guarantee Passed By Committee.")
Senators also approved bills:
– requiring solar hot water in new construction, setting up rebates and tax incentives for installing alternative energy systems and allowing residents to sell power to WAPA. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Louis P. Hill, spent three solid years in the drafting and review process before hitting the Senate floor last June. Since then, it has been amended to include suggestions provided by the V.I. Water and Power Authority, the V.I. Energy Office and local renewable energy experts.
creating the National Guard Youth Challenge Program — a voluntary, co-educational 17 month program for 16-18 year old high school dropouts, consisting of a five and a half month quasi-military phase during which students would live on base or in National Guard dorms, followed by a full year of post-residential classes;
– authorizing the heads of the Health, Education, Justice and Police departments to offer incentive bonuses up to $10,000 to keep nurses, teachers, corrections or police officers from retiring, and allow them to stay on the job for up to an additional three and a half years;
mandating Education to incorporate labor relations, worker's rights, workplace ethics, resume writing, interview taking, basic federal labor law and other labor rights and workplace skill curricula into the Worker Preparation Educational Program, and putting two-percent of the money allotted to Education from the Casino Revenue Fund toward the effort;
– clarifying and expanding rules for safety belts and child restraints;
– increasing the minimum size of constructions contracts that must go through the formal Property and Procurement request for proposal process from $5,000 to $50,000, so long as three bids are sought, and letting the government essentially act as a bonding agent for local contractors, allowing smaller companies to bid;
– transferring about $2.27 million annually from the V.I. Lottery's net collections to fund a 3.5 pension bonus for close to 6,000 government retirees;
– appropriating $250,000 from the General Fund to the Witness Protection Program and banning license plates from being covered with tinted material;
– banning passengers in the back of pickup trucks except during special circumstances such as parades (the bill also exempts taxi drivers); and
– establishing a Motorcycle Rider Education program within the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to provide, among other things, rider training courses for beginning and experienced riders.
All senators were present during Friday's session.
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May 29, 2009 -- There's a difference between the government being broke and flat broke, one senator asserted Friday, as he called for the approval of an amendment pulling $250,000 from the General Fund to cover the cost of dialysis equipment and services provided by the territory's two hospitals.
When asked by Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly where the money would be coming from, since the government is currently projecting a $188 million budget shortfall this year, Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. responded, "The money comes from the authority vested in this Legislature to appropriate money from the General Fund."
He added later that the money would come from the savings realized from another bill that senators failed to pass during Friday's full session that creates an annual scholarship award for local valedictorians and salutatorians. This bill would have cost the government more than $3 million at the end of four years, according to Jose George, the Legislature's post auditor.
White's $250,000 amendment was tacked onto a bill that originally contained one $500,000 appropriation from the General Fund to Human Services to expand their home- and community-based support services for senior citizens 60 years and older. But an amendment tacked on during a recent Rules and Judiciary Committee meeting added another $400,000 to the V.I Board of Education for nursing scholarships.
On Friday, another $250,000 amendment from Sen. Michael Thurland appropriated an additional $150,000 during FY 2009 and $500,000 in FY 2010 from internal revenue matching funds -- or the territory's rum revenues -- as a grant to Wheel Coach Inc to cover transportation costs for dialysis patients two and from the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and the V.I. Kidney Center.
While Rivera-O'Reilly said the scholarship bill would have allowed students to study abroad and pursue a degree in a range of different fields instead of just nursing, other contended that the money would be better spent expanding programs at the University of the Virgin Islands. Senators, including Rivera-O'Reilly, instead decided to back the Human Services Bill, which in total, seeks to appropriate about $1.1 million from the General Fund this fiscal year.
"There's broke and then there's flat broke, dead broke," White joked. "So when the word is used, it doesn't mean the wheels stop turning. The Legislature determines the spending plan for the government."
The bill also allows money appropriated two years ago to the Health Department to cover the cost of "antiviral flu vaccine for the Bird Flu" to be used for antivirals, testing kits and other resources for pandemic diseases such as the swine flu.
Senators also approved a bill Friday authorizing the Public Finance Authority to issue an up to $50 million loan guarantee for a major St. Thomas development, using any money available in the Internal Revenue Matching Fund or any other government fund. The government's loan guarantee would help Wintdots Development -- a limited liability company owned by the Elskoe family -- secure a lower interest rate on a construction loan and provide their lender, Connecticut-based Greenwich Financial Partners, with some financial re-enforcement in case of emergency.
The family is using their property -- bordered by Estate Thomas on the north, Frenchman's Bay on the south and Paradise Point on the east -- as the site for a set of luxury condominiums, timeshare units and a 40-room boutique hotel, among other things. (See "50M Loan Guarantee Passed By Committee.")
Senators also approved bills:
- requiring solar hot water in new construction, setting up rebates and tax incentives for installing alternative energy systems and allowing residents to sell power to WAPA. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Louis P. Hill, spent three solid years in the drafting and review process before hitting the Senate floor last June. Since then, it has been amended to include suggestions provided by the V.I. Water and Power Authority, the V.I. Energy Office and local renewable energy experts.
creating the National Guard Youth Challenge Program -- a voluntary, co-educational 17 month program for 16-18 year old high school dropouts, consisting of a five and a half month quasi-military phase during which students would live on base or in National Guard dorms, followed by a full year of post-residential classes;
- authorizing the heads of the Health, Education, Justice and Police departments to offer incentive bonuses up to $10,000 to keep nurses, teachers, corrections or police officers from retiring, and allow them to stay on the job for up to an additional three and a half years;
mandating Education to incorporate labor relations, worker's rights, workplace ethics, resume writing, interview taking, basic federal labor law and other labor rights and workplace skill curricula into the Worker Preparation Educational Program, and putting two-percent of the money allotted to Education from the Casino Revenue Fund toward the effort;
- clarifying and expanding rules for safety belts and child restraints;
- increasing the minimum size of constructions contracts that must go through the formal Property and Procurement request for proposal process from $5,000 to $50,000, so long as three bids are sought, and letting the government essentially act as a bonding agent for local contractors, allowing smaller companies to bid;
- transferring about $2.27 million annually from the V.I. Lottery's net collections to fund a 3.5 pension bonus for close to 6,000 government retirees;
- appropriating $250,000 from the General Fund to the Witness Protection Program and banning license plates from being covered with tinted material;
- banning passengers in the back of pickup trucks except during special circumstances such as parades (the bill also exempts taxi drivers); and
- establishing a Motorcycle Rider Education program within the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to provide, among other things, rider training courses for beginning and experienced riders.
All senators were present during Friday'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.