People using government vehicles will have to pay for their own gas and maintenance if a bill sent out of the Finance Committee Tuesday becomes law.
The measure, proposed by Sen. Sammuel Sanes, initially referred to all government vehicles, but Sanes submitted an amendment clarifying that utility workers, ambulance drivers, police and others who must drive as part of their job would be exempt.
As it stands now, the bill also requires all government agencies to create an energy conservation plan to reduce consumption by 20 percent.
V.I. Energy Office Director Karl Knight testified in opposition to that measure, saying the agency’s recent experience with energy audits taught them that such dramatic changes take money.
"(W)e now have sufficient experience to realize that an energy conservation plan designed to achieve a 20 percent reduction in utility usage requires a significant technical and economic analysis," Knight said.
Sanes took note of the critique and said that passage may be amended when the bill is next considered by the Rules and Judiciary Committee.
Voting yea to send the measure on for further consideration were Sanes, Sens. Louis Patrick Hill, Janette Millin-Young, and Carlton "Ital" Dowe. Absent for the vote were Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone, Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly, and Celestino White.
The committee also approved and sent on for further consideration a bill to create the Revenue Estimating Conference, a new commission of sorts to examine government revenue estimates.
Sponsored by Sanes and Senate President Ronald Russell, the measure seeks to provide an independent mechanism for the Legislature to examine and verify the administration’s budget projections.
With the administration warning of fiscal crisis, and with revenue projections declining, several senators have publicly cast doubt on the reliability of administration figures and have been seeking ways to independently check the administration’s projections.
The conference would be comprised of the Management and Budget director, Finance commissioner, Internal Revenue Bureau director, and the post auditor of the Legislature, along with the president of the Legislature and the president of the University of the Virgin Islands or their designees.
OMB Director Debra Gottlieb testified against the measure, saying it was unnecessary and "just adds another level of complexity to the process and duplicates the process that the administration has already established."
Voting yea were Sanes, Hill, Millin-Young, Dowe, and Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly. Malone and White were absent. Both bills now go on to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for further consideration.