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Friday, August 19, 2022


A group of "knowledgeable" individuals should be formed to ask President Bill Clinton and the federal government to consider returning at least a portion of the excise tax on gasoline to the territory, Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole says.
"To . . . reverse the existing precarious state of affairs, an infusion of new capital into the treasury must be explored. This new infusion should be a return percentage of taxes collected in the United States on gasoline refined in the Virgin Islands," Cole wrote in a letter Tuesday to Gov. Charles Turnbull.
"As an elected official searching for ways to help improve economic conditions, I propose that a select group of knowledgeable individuals approach the United States president and the Congress of the United States to discuss the gasoline tax issue," he wrote.
Officials from all three branches of government, the V.I. delegate to Congress, both Chambers of Commerce, labor leaders, and members of the League of Women Voters and other civic organizations should comprise the group, Cole suggests.
Government House spokesman James O'Bryan said the gas tax has been considered in the development of the Turnbull administration's economic recovery plan.
"I know the governor's economic advisory team has raised the subject," O'Bryan said. "They have agreed to review it and develop a strategy to make a presentation to the federal government and raise the issue again."
Among the reasons Cole offered in his letter for why Congress should return at least a portion of the gas taxes to the territory are the devastating impact of recent hurricanes and the defeat of a proposed $2.50 increase of the cruise-ship passenger head tax.
The territory's financial condition has also been negatively impacted by competing destinations and cruise ships that sell the same products onboard that are sold by businesses ashore.
"In order to circumvent U.S. Customs, passengers make purchases in other ports . . . then masquerade the merchandise as if they were bought in the U.S. Virgin Islands," Cole wrote. "This means fewer sales for local businesses and fewer taxes paid to the government."
The federally mandated Earned Income Tax Credit has also sapped millions of dollars from the territory's treasury, he wrote.
"Possibly, if a competently charted case is presented by clearly documenting the territory's need to benefit from a portion of the gasoline tax, Washington may view this as a mechanism for the territory to get back on the path to self-sufficiency, thereby, diminishing the need to spend more federal dollars locally," Cole wrote.
Cole has targeted some of the government's most well-known debts as beneficiaries of return gasoline-excise taxes.
"In the event this new endeavor is successful as a new revenue stream, it can go towards step increases to unionized workers, vendor payments and overdue income tax payments," he wrote.

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