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HomeNewsArchives$445 MILLION BUDGET SET FOR FINAL SENATE ACTION

$445 MILLION BUDGET SET FOR FINAL SENATE ACTION

The Finance Committee finished up midday Wednesday with review of the FY2000 budget and passed it off like a hot potato to the Rules Committee where Sen. V. Anne Golden moved it swiftly through. The budget, which is over a month late in being finalized, will go to the full Senate on Thursday.
Golden lumped the budget bills in groups of four, except for the last eight, which she considered important enough to be considered separately.
With the exception of Sen. Adelbert M. "Bert" Bryan, there was little opposition as Golden moved from one set of bills to the next, passing them with a bang of her gavel.
At the end of the day the Rules Committee had approved a $445 million budget for fiscal year 2000.
Concerns earlier in the month about a projected revenue shortfall of $135 million seemed to melt away.
According to media reports, the Legislature's projections now would end with a surplus in revenues of $13 million.
The projected excess revenues will depend, in part, on capital projects that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has promised to initiate.
Other revenue increases are expected from legislative initiatives, which include $5 million from the Insurance Guarantee Fund, $800,000 from the Government Employees Retirement System, $3 million from the solid-waste fund and $65 million from privatization of the collection of accounts receivable, according to the V.I. Independent.
Early in the day, John deJongh Jr., chair of the governor's Fiscal Recovery Task Force, appealed to the Finance Committee to remove from the bill certain fee increases and a provision in the Omnibus Act of 1999 that sought to force private businesses to submit profit and loss statements to the Lieutenant Governor's Office annually.
With two motions by Sen. David Jones, those items were removed from the bill with the caveat that the issues will be revisited in three months, after the five-year recovery plan is completed.
Other provisions of the Omnibus Act, which passed 5-1 in Finance, include:
– Elimination of four paid government holidays — Transfer Day, Organic Act Day, Supplication Day and Local Thanksgiving Day.
– Making the Inspector General's Office an independent agency.
– Authorizing the governor to submit plans to privatize government services.
– Selling tax liens to private collections agency.
– Requiring government agencies to accept partial payments.
– Eliminating the requirement for casino employees to have six months' training.
– Mandating that accrued annual leave in excess of 60 hours must be applied to retirement credit.
– Transferring the Narcotics Strike Force to the Police Department, the Office of Collective Bargaining to the Personnel Divisions and the Taxicab Commission to Licensing and Consumer Affairs, all for budgetary purposes.
In attendance at the Finance Committee meeting were committee chair Berry and Sens Jones, Roosevelt David, George Goodwin, Golden and Gregory Bennerson.
Attending the Rules Committee hearing were Golden, the committee chair, plus Sens. Vargrave Richards, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Almando "Rocky"Liburd and Judy Gomez. Sen. Adelbert M. "Bert" Bryan, frustrated in his attempts to slow down the process, left the Senate floor and was not there for the votes on the omnibus act, the Legislature's $14.3 million budget or the $390.2 million executive budget.
Sources in the Legislature say they expect majority senators to attempt to lump all bills together Thursday, except the omnibus bill and the executive budget, in order to speed up the process of finalizing the budget.

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