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PROSSER PULLS OUT OF LAND-FOR-TAX DEAL

St. Croix businessman Jeffrey Prosser has withdrawn his offer to "bail out" the Virgin Islands with a land-for-tax-breaks deal and will not exercise his option to buy the Carambola property that would have been integral to of the deal.
In a release Tuesday afternoon from his Innovative Communications Corp., Prosser said he pulled back because "we understand that the majority of labor leaders representing government workers would prefer cash payments instead of land for the $200 million in retroactive pay. I can't blame them for wanting cash."
Prosser said the government and labor leaders feel confident they can "float $1 billion in bonds, which would result in enough cash to pay the retroactive wages."
Prosser's statement was the first public mention of any plan for a $1 billion bond issue to borrow money to pay off the territory's debt.
Prosser praised Gov. Charles W. Turnbull for his foresight in "trying to resolve our financial debt problems with creative alternatives that combined the best of our resources."
The Daily News, which Prosser owns, had disclosed April 1 that Prosser had cut a deal with the V.I. government to pay off retroactive wages, build a new library in St. Thomas, give St. Croix a ballfield and drag strip and build a new multipurpose community center in St. John.
In exchange, Prosser was to get tax breaks for ICC for 30 years, which the Daily News valued at $6 million a year, or $180 million. Prosser is the sole owner of ICC.
An integral part of the deal involved the development of 2,800 acres at Carambola that Prosser had a contract to purchase. The Daily News said he would donate 1,000 acres of that property to be subdivided and given to government employees as payback for the almost $200 million owed to them in retroactive wages.
Prosser reportedly would have paid for the subdivision, built roads and developed the infrastructure.
But Tuesday Prosser said that "since so many people in the community have come forward telling us of the great interest that now exists among others who want to develop the property, it is my intention not to renew the option to buy the Carambola property when the option expires" at the end of April.
Prosser's release also said he hoped the critics of his plan "would provide their own ideas for solving the problems. And we should also ask the critics if they are willing to put their own resources behind those ideas."
He accused his critics of attacking "businesses and others who come forward with ideas to help solve the territory's problems."
Prosser said that "although we never publicly disclosed the details of the proposed venture, speculation in the community resulted in a presumption, by many, that ICC was getting the best of the deal. Of course, that is not true. The deal that was proposed would have resulted in everyone benefitting, especially the territory."
Prosser said that though he will not buy or develop the Carambola property, he will continue to develop his three other office and business center projects.

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