The V.I. Legislature overrode Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s veto to enact two measures, to require the Enid M. Baa Library’s upper floors be used for territorial archives and to place an expired $450,000 appropriation for school fencing on this year’s budget, during a single day of session Monday.
Both measures worsen the government’s fiscal situation as the Legislature prepares to consider ways to meet a looming $40.5 million current year budget shortfall.
Jackson read aloud deJongh’s stated objections and reasons for vetoing the legislation and responded to them in detail, departing markedly from the usual practice of the V.I. Legislature in recent years.
DeJongh said the law "defines with far too much particularity the purposes for which the Enid M. Baa Library and Archives Building can be utilized in a community where the lack of typical library or museum programs would gather government and nongovernment materials of historical interest.” He also said the bill contains unfunded mandates, puts materials at risk by having the archives on one floor but the reading room on another, and transfers irreplaceable historical documents to "an inadequate facility."
Jackson responded that the materials are at serious risk right now and may be lost forever if nothing is done. “I believe that in order to preserve the archival holdings, which are already fragile and vulnerable to flooding on the ground floor of the Baa Library, they must be moved to the upper floors and the air conditioning must be turned on to prevent further destruction,” Jackson said.
As to a lack of funding, the “solution for this concern is to use the Library, Archives and Museums Revolving Fund to fund the start-up costs for this endeavor,” Jackson said. “We are currently exploring collaborations … to discuss possible interest in renting the ground floor to assist in providing or recovering the cash needed to retrofit the building,” he said.
Voting to enact the measure over deJongh’s veto were Jackson, Sens. Craig Barshinger, Diane Capehart, Donald Cole, Kenneth Gittens, Clifford Graham, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence “Positive” Nelson, Clarence Payne and Sammuel Sanes. Sen. Tregenza Roach voted no. Sens. Nereida “Nellie” Rivera-O’Reilly and Judi Buckley abstained. Absent were Sens. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen and Janette Millin Young.
Sen. Donald Cole moved to override deJongh’s veto of a measure reauthorizing a $450,000 appropriation for fencing and lighting at the Joseph Gomez Elementary School.
When deJongh vetoed the measure in January, he said the effect would be to make the appropriation a Fiscal Year 2014 General Fund obligation at a time when there is not enough money to pay the anticipated obligations. (see related links below) That is, it would be an unexpected expense, when there is already not enough money to pay the existing bills for the year.
There was no discussion of the reasons for the veto or reasons for overriding it.
Senators present voted unanimously to override deJongh’s veto and reinstate the appropriation. Barshinger and Millin Young were absent.
When the government does not have enough funding for existing appropriations, the Office of Management and Budget must choose what is and is not actually funded. As a result, whether the appropriation will in fact be carried out as mandated by the Legislature will depend in part upon whether the Legislature resolves this year’s budget shortfall, removing the arithmetical necessity of cutting allotments below the Legislature’s appropriation levels.
The Legislature approved three individuals renominated for new terms on boards and commissions. It unanimously approved the renomination of Violet Ann Golden for another term as chairwoman of the V.I. Casino Control Commission. And it approved the renominations of Cheryl Boynes-Jackson and Donald Francois to the V.I. Water and Power Authority Governing Board, with O’Reilly casting the sole no vote. Millin Young was absent.