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HomeNewsArchivesFINANCE COMMITTEE POSTPONES VOTE ON FINANCIAL BILL

FINANCE COMMITTEE POSTPONES VOTE ON FINANCIAL BILL

It may be a long haul to any kind of resolution and vote on the Financial Accountability and Short Term Revenue Enhancement Act of 1999 that was reviewed Monday and Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee.
In the midst of protest and questions, the meeting scheduled Friday to review the amended bill has been postponed.
The main reason for the postponement was to give the island's retailers, who protested the proposed ocean carrier head tax portion of the bill, time to arrange a meeting with cruise industry representatives and the senators to try to find a compromise. The bill calls for a $2.50 head tax to be added to the $7.50 in fees now charged to ships that dock in St. Thomas.
Finance Committee Chairwoman Lorraine Berry told protesters who amassed at the Legislature on Tuesday that the head-tax section would be removed from the bill. However, she later said her colleagues wanted the bill to "remain intact" and therefore they would hold the entire bill until "we meet with the retailers and cruise ship people."
Berry said the postponement would also give the committee time to develop amendments and the post auditor time to prepare an addendum to the preliminary report on the bill.
Other ardent opposition to the bill came from Luis "Tito" Morales, president the Central Labor Council, who strongly objected, along with Glenn Smith, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Federation of Teachers, to the section of the bill that would discontinue lump-sum annual leave payments being made to employees leaving the government.
Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt supported the section of the bill that would make the Bureau of Audit and Control an independent agency, with the power to hire staff and submit a budget directly to the Legislature.
Berry couldn't say when the meeting is expected to take place with retailers or, therefore, when the committee would reconvene to vote on the amended bill.

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