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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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ACCOUNTABILITY BILL GETS MIXED REACTION

"Yes…but" was the consensus during the first day of testimony Monday on the Government Financial Accountability and Short-Term Enhancement Act of 1999. No one said the bill had no merit but most of the officials and community leaders who testified suggested additions or subtractions that would make it palatable.
Members of the private sector who testified were opposed to increasing fees.
Stanley Dawson, president of the V.I. Insurance Association, suggested that instead of increasing licensing fees and bonds for insurance brokers and adjusters, the Legislature should pass a mandatory automobile insurance law. Dawson said the initiative could create jobs and revenues in the industry and thus greater income and gross receipts taxes.
John de Jongh, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, opposed any increase in fees, saying, "The taxpayers will just be asked to pull one more dollar out of their pockets."
De Jongh also expressed concern that the bill does not provide any private-sector incentives for hiring, attracting investments or stimulating tourism.
The attrition initiative was generally supported, but acting Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull, acting Internal Revenue Director Claudette Farrington and acting Budget Director Ira Mills said the program must apply to all branches of government to be effective.
Paulette Rabsatt, deputy assistant to the governor for fiscal policy, said the administration supports the attrition program but argued that it must not be limited to specific numbers of hires. Rabsatt, who appeared on behalf of Rudolph Krigger, assistant to the governor on fiscal affairs, said the limitations would infringe on the administration's ability to manage and determine the necessary workforce and on the separation of powers.
There was a substantial amount of discussion on the proposed $2.50 increase in the head tax to the cruise lines. Edward Thomas, president and chief executive officer of West Indian Co. Ltd., said he had no opinion on the tax, but suggested that senators should meet with representatives of the cruise-ship industry to try to work out a compromise.
Testimony on the bill continues Tuesday in the Senate Chambers on St. Thomas.

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