Overriding the governor’s line-item veto Thursday, the V.I. Legislature appropriated $70,000 to fix lightning-damaged broadcast equipment on St. Croix, citing payroll savings created by large numbers of government retirees as the source of funding.
The St. Croix broadcast system has been offline for many months, depriving residents of the ability to watch the elected Legislature on television when committees meet on St. Croix.
The retirement program is expected to save millions of dollars, helping to shrink a large 2012 budget deficit. However, administration officials recently testified the government still faces a 2012 budget shortfall of $27.1 million out of a $720 million budget, before this small additional appropriation slightly increased that deficit.
The Legislature also overrode Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s line-item veto to appropriate $375,000 from the Health Revolving Fund to pay salaries in the Health Department’s Division of Maternal Child Health. The Legislature previously appropriated the entire $3.94 million projected for the fund for 2012, earmarking all of it for the Health Department when it passed the 2012 General Fund budget on Sept. 22.
Several other override votes were cast: one enacted a measure creating a sped-up process for the government to settle claims for vehicle damage caused by government employees and increasing the maximum amount the government can offer in settlement from $3,000 to $6,000.
Another override enacted a series of set-asides from lottery and casino revenues, changing the current complex formula for dividing up these funds. Now, three percent of government revenues from video lotteries will go to purses and other horse racing purposes on St. Thomas, and six percent of government revenues from video lottery terminals at the Clinton Phipps Racetrack on St. Thomas to youth sports on St. Thomas and St. John, and to the V.I. Olympic Committee.
Lastly, when deJongh signed a recent hotel development act allowing hotels to use future tax revenues to pay off development loans, he vetoed a passage that would have made the benefit not transferable. The Legislature overrode that veto Thursday, making the benefit transferable to a second mortgagee.