Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp on Monday announced he is invoking public exigency authority to fast track repairs of the territory’s roads following an extensive period of rainfall.
During his news conference the governor also reported he believes the government can and should restore the eight percent pay cuts imposed on government employees during the previous administration. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals last month ruled in favor of unionized employees represented by the United Steel Workers Union and the American Federation of Teachers.
According to a news release from Government House, Mapp explained at the news conference that the public exigency process will allow more expedient process to award road repair contracts and get the work underway. He gave assurances that contracts will be awarded in accordance with applicable law, and said an assistant attorney general from the Department of Justice will be assigned to the Departments of Public Works and Property and Procurement to oversee the process.
The governor said the road work to be done will be consistent with designs for more extensive highway infrastructure upgrades in the future.
In regards to the government employee salary issue, Mapp announced his intention to propose a series of new revenue measures to help restore the salaries of unionized and non-unionized employees, which he estimated could total upward of $65 million. The additional taxes would not affect the cost of necessities of life for Virgin Islanders, he added,
“There will be no additional costs for food, clothing, mortgages or standard needs for living for locals," Mapp said. "Our visitors that are utilizing our infrastructure and contributing waste and wear on the system will be asked to contribute their fair share.”
Areas for taxation include timeshares, beer, and cigarettes, to name a few.
The governor also defended the legislative process by which the Government entered an agreement with VIGL Operations, LLC, to operate the territory’s two horse racing tracks and offer slot machine gaming. Referring to a newspaper editorial criticizing the exclusive arrangement and the introduction of slot machines in the St. Thomas-St. John District, Mapp offered examples of prior exclusive arrangements with business entities for certain government-approved economy enhancing initiatives, including Southland Gaming, which operates Video Lottery Terminals in the district.
Mapp said he will ask the Legislature to undo several of the changes to the agreement made during Senate consideration, which he believes would limit the revenue distribution envisioned by his administration, as well as compromise the integrity of the sport of horse racing in the U.S. Virgin Islands.