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FY 2000 BUDGET GOES TO GOVERNOR

Members of the 23rd Legislature wrapped up their budget process Friday with a $450 million FY 2000 budget to be presented to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull for his approval.
The budget is $13 million in excess of what was mandated by the memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Interior Department and the V.I. government.
Friday's session, which was rancorous at times, ended with the remaining 17 budget bills being passed all together by a vote of 13-1. Sen. Adelbert M. "Bert" Bryan was the dissenting vote. Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen was absent.
The Omnibus Act was passed by a vote of 10-4 with several amendments attached, including one presented by Sen. Roosevelt David that would prevent Industrial Development Commission beneficiaries from automatically receiving extended benefits for mergers or newly acquired businesses.
Another amendment, proposed by freshman Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, sought to increase property taxes by 5 percent to fund pay increases for teachers. Jn Baptiste, the chair of the Education Committee, was reportedly pushed by Sen. Adelbert M. "Bert" Bryan to introduce the amendment, according to the Daily News. Bryan accused fellow senators of turning their backs on the teachers by rejecting the proposal.
Late last month St. Thomas Source reported that Post Auditor Campbell Malone projected a $135 million shortfall on revenues for the then-$432 million FY 2000 budget.
As of the close of the Senate session Friday, the projected deficit for FY 2000 was $67 million, according to media reports.
The difference in the projected revenue figures was attributed to new revenue enhancements instituted by the Legislature.
Voting in favor of the Omnibus Act were Sen. Lorraine Berry, Donald "Ducks" Cole, David, V. Anne Golden, George Goodwin, JnBaptiste, David Jones, Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Allie-Allison Petrus and Vargrave Richards.
Voting against the bill were Sens. Gregory Bennerson, Bryan, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Judy Gomez.
Despite considerable debate and argument, at the end of the day, all 14 senators agreed on one thing – the budget is less than perfect and will require ongoing review and modification.

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