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HomeNewsArchivesSenate: DeJongh Blowing Budget Woes Out of Proportion

Senate: DeJongh Blowing Budget Woes Out of Proportion

The Legislature fired back at Gov. John deJongh Jr. Friday, calling the governor’s outrage over budget battles "disingenuous," and his budget-balancing measures "morally reprehensible."

The governor said on Oct. 7 that if the Legislature nixes unpaid holidays and tax increases and leaves a $15 million budget shortfall, the government would have to lay off workers.

"A budget document is a blueprint that is subject to revision during the course of the fiscal year, and we will have the opportunity to do that, after the first quarter or two, based on the revenue picture at that time," said Legislature Majority Leader Celestino White in a statement from the majority caucus. "But we utterly reject the idea that a projected shortfall amounting to $3.75 million per quarter in a budget of over $700 million a year could require the layoff of hundreds of employees, as the governor claims," White continued.

Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe agreed, saying the administration "has been consistently wrong in their revenue projections," and suggested the governor send a request to the Legislature for $20 million from the territory’s Insurance Guaranty Fund to fill the gap.

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"In our discussions with the governor, he requested access to $20 million from the Insurance Guaranty Fund, but has never sent a legislative proposal as promised," Dowe said. "The Legislature stands ready to act on such a proposal, as was indicated by the governor, to address the budget shortfall without having to affect people’s livelihoods. Taking the bread from the mouths of hundreds of families is simply not necessary and we cannot sit silently in the face of such allegations."

Management and Budget Director Debra Gottlieb requested the Legislature add the $20 million transfer to budget legislation during budget markup hearings Aug. 31.

Like Dowe, Sen. Usie Richards also pointed to the Insurance Guaranty Fund as an ace in the hole to fix the budget.

"It is difficult not to call the governor’s remarks disingenuous at best," Richards said. "The shortfall of which the governor speaks represents less than 2.1 percent of our annual budget and the governor has already identified monies in the Insurance Guaranty Fund that are sufficient to address the shortfall, unless we are soon to be told that the executive branch’s revenue projections were again wildly inaccurate."

While agreeing there is a fiscal crisis, Senate President Ronald Russell opposed raising taxes or adding unpaid holidays as solutions.

"How can anyone justify imposing an additional salary reduction, because that’s what unpaid holidays are, on government employees who are reeling from the effects of a significant reduction in their pay?" Russell said. "Similarly, increasing the gross receipts taxes would impose an additional burden on all consumers, of all income levels at a time when people are struggling with a high cost of living and energy costs that are driving business and households into bankruptcy. That is not only morally reprehensible to us, but it makes poor economic sense," Russell said.

Sen. Janette Millin-Young said she opposed any increase in taxes and said the gap could be closed by collecting millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

During budget markup in August, V.I. Internal Revenue Bureau Director Claudette Watson Anderson testified concerning these overdue taxes, saying the government is stepping up efforts on several fronts, and has collected more, but that much of the debt is many years old, with many delinquent companies no longer in existence, making it a slow, difficult and unreliable source of revenue.

White concluded the statement, saying the "Legislature stands ready to dialogue with the administration," and said the Finance Committee will explore the situation with the governor’s financial team on Oct. 24.

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The Legislature fired back at Gov. John deJongh Jr. Friday, calling the governor's outrage over budget battles "disingenuous," and his budget-balancing measures "morally reprehensible."

The governor said on Oct. 7 that if the Legislature nixes unpaid holidays and tax increases and leaves a $15 million budget shortfall, the government would have to lay off workers.

"A budget document is a blueprint that is subject to revision during the course of the fiscal year, and we will have the opportunity to do that, after the first quarter or two, based on the revenue picture at that time," said Legislature Majority Leader Celestino White in a statement from the majority caucus. "But we utterly reject the idea that a projected shortfall amounting to $3.75 million per quarter in a budget of over $700 million a year could require the layoff of hundreds of employees, as the governor claims," White continued.

Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe agreed, saying the administration "has been consistently wrong in their revenue projections," and suggested the governor send a request to the Legislature for $20 million from the territory's Insurance Guaranty Fund to fill the gap.

"In our discussions with the governor, he requested access to $20 million from the Insurance Guaranty Fund, but has never sent a legislative proposal as promised," Dowe said. "The Legislature stands ready to act on such a proposal, as was indicated by the governor, to address the budget shortfall without having to affect people's livelihoods. Taking the bread from the mouths of hundreds of families is simply not necessary and we cannot sit silently in the face of such allegations."

Management and Budget Director Debra Gottlieb requested the Legislature add the $20 million transfer to budget legislation during budget markup hearings Aug. 31.

Like Dowe, Sen. Usie Richards also pointed to the Insurance Guaranty Fund as an ace in the hole to fix the budget.

"It is difficult not to call the governor's remarks disingenuous at best," Richards said. "The shortfall of which the governor speaks represents less than 2.1 percent of our annual budget and the governor has already identified monies in the Insurance Guaranty Fund that are sufficient to address the shortfall, unless we are soon to be told that the executive branch's revenue projections were again wildly inaccurate."

While agreeing there is a fiscal crisis, Senate President Ronald Russell opposed raising taxes or adding unpaid holidays as solutions.

"How can anyone justify imposing an additional salary reduction, because that's what unpaid holidays are, on government employees who are reeling from the effects of a significant reduction in their pay?" Russell said. "Similarly, increasing the gross receipts taxes would impose an additional burden on all consumers, of all income levels at a time when people are struggling with a high cost of living and energy costs that are driving business and households into bankruptcy. That is not only morally reprehensible to us, but it makes poor economic sense," Russell said.

Sen. Janette Millin-Young said she opposed any increase in taxes and said the gap could be closed by collecting millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

During budget markup in August, V.I. Internal Revenue Bureau Director Claudette Watson Anderson testified concerning these overdue taxes, saying the government is stepping up efforts on several fronts, and has collected more, but that much of the debt is many years old, with many delinquent companies no longer in existence, making it a slow, difficult and unreliable source of revenue.

White concluded the statement, saying the "Legislature stands ready to dialogue with the administration," and said the Finance Committee will explore the situation with the governor's financial team on Oct. 24.