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Cruz Bay
Friday, October 7, 2022


The Legislature wielded its might over the governor Wednesday night by passing a Financial Accountability Act which, among other measures, legally requires sitting administrations to balance the budget.
"What this measure seeks to do is to accomplish what many of us spoke about when we campaigned," Sen. Norman Jn.-Baptiste said. "Bringing accountability to government. What this measure does is effectively say to the executive branch of government, no more runaway spending, no more of hiring political cronies at exorbitant salaries."
Aside from the balanced budget, the Financial Accountability bill creates an attrition program for the public workforce, decreases the number of exempt positions, orders better maintenance of federal grants, authorizes the reorganization of the central government and orders evaluations of all government positions and property.
The bill passed 10-3. Sens. Adelbert Bryan, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Alicia "Chucky" Hansen voted against the bill. Sens. Anne Golden and Norman Jn.-Baptiste were absent.
The bill address problems that have been allowed to linger for decades, Senate President Vargrave Richard said.
"Our financial predicament has been analyzed, dissected, anything that you can think about. And over the years, over different administrations, we've been warned, forewarned, told of the imminent fall of our government, and we have jumped around the responsibility of doing the right thing," Richards said.
Many senators viewed the balanced budget as the most vital part of the bill.
"A balanced budget is when the revenues match the expenditures. Right now we have a situation where the expenditures exceed by far our revenues," Petrus said. "No economy that you would see that is doing good has a situation where it is totally dependent on the public sector, where 92 percent of the public sector's revenues go toward payroll.
"That is an economy that is flirting with death," he said.
Petrus, like other senators, spoke of the federal government's budget surplus.
"The big celebration about the U.S. economy is for the first time in 15 years the U.S. government can brag about having a balanced budget. What does that mean? Why are so many people celebrating while we're suffering? They have one, we don't," Petrus said. "Is that an indication we're doing things that are totally wrong.
"Should we continue what we've always done, we will continue to get what we've always got," he said.
The bill also attempts to ensure that the governor, in preparing the budget, uses only actual revenues, Sen. David Jones said.
"The balanced budget provision is very important and, in concert with that, we must have verifiable receipts that are audited and certified to be true," David said. "No more phantom figures."
Sen. Judy Gomez, however, said the administration must be given some leeway as far as revenues are concerned.
"If we are talking about balancing the budget based on revenues actually received, we will never function, because the fact is, we must deal with projections, realistic projections, based on monies anticipated to be received," Gomez said.
Sen. George Goodwin said he was particularly supportive of directing the administration to evaluate all of its properties with the intent of moving out of rented spaces.
"Our economy is taking a nose dive and here is one source where we can put a plug to stop the nose dive," Goodwin said. "When you look around and see the amount of rents the government is paying, they have a lot of buildings just going to waste."
Goodwin said he also supported more frequent reviews of the government insurance payments.
"When you only wait until a year at a time to review those records, it simply means that the government is paying out insurance for people that have already left and in some instances, for people that have died," Goodwin.
The bill orders a review of the insurance program every 90 days.
"In supporting the measure and getting it passed, that's not the end of the story. We have to monitor and monitor constantly," Goodwin said. "As a member of the Finance Committee, I'll ensure I work with the Finance chair and other members to make sure that we keep check on the government.
"Here are ways and means that we can start to plug the holes of this government and at least bring us back to some financial respectability," he said.
Sen. Gregory Bennerson said the Senate must exercise the same fiscal responsibility it is attempting to impose on the governor.
"This Legislature too has to be prepared during the budget process to deal with cuts also and I hope we are prepared in this body to do such," Bennerson said. "Some of it may be coming right in our own personal allotment, committees, and the body itself.
"Every branch must bear the responsibility of the what this financial morass is. So, I ask, let us not look on high when it comes time to do the cutting and when it comes to do the voting," he said.
Bryan's attempt to force some accountability on the part of the Senate, however, was defeated. His amendment to have senators, except the president, paid equally and to publicize the names of all employees of Legislature lost 5-8.
"I guarantee that there is no senator right here in this body that knows all employees of the Legislature, whether they are central staff or senatorial staff," Bryan said. "The Legislature employees are public employees just like executive branch employees and judicial branch employees.
"I see people come and go and we don't know if they working here, we see people coming in here collecting checks and we don't know what they're doing. If we are talking about fiscal responsibility, the only fair thing to do is to make all senators responsibile," he said.
Only Bryan, Cole, Hansen, Liburd and Bennerson voted for the amendment.

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