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Tuesday, February 7, 2023


Sept. 26, 2001 – The 24th Legislature completed its $551 million Fiscal Year 2002 budget session Tuesday night, in the process overriding the governor's line-item vetoes of nearly $2.8 million in appropriations in the FY 2001 supplemental appropriations bill.
When they went into their overrides, the senators approved an Internet gambling bill but didn't touch Turnbull's veto of video lottery terminals in the territory.
Included in the overrides was an amendment brought back to the floor by Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole raising the cap on senators' pensions from 65 percent to 75 percent of their salaries at time of retirement. It also provides for senators retired from government service to receive their annuities while still in office. Only Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg opposed the override.
The amendment was attached to a bill to greatly expand the power of the Government Employees Retirement System board, giving it the authority to issue bonds and sell or mortgage its properties. Turnbull opposed the measure as giving too much power to the board, but the GERS board chair, Carver Farrow, was wholeheartedly in favor of it, according to a letter he wrote to Cole.
Farrow told Cole the GERS had been forced to dip into high-yielding investments to pay retirees. "Such an exercise is neither responsible nor financially prudent," he wrote.
Press releases distributed by the legislature's media services office did not mention the override raising the cap on senators' retirement benefits.
The senators also granted themselves a $16 million legislative branch appropriation for FY 2002, over the objections of Sen. Lorraine Berry, who said it was the highest ever. Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd disagreed. Both cited past budgets backing up their opinions. Vote on the budget was 14-1, with Sen. David Jones absent for the vote.
The lawmakers also passed the 2002 Omnibus Bill by a narrow vote of 8-7, with eight of the nine majority members approving and majority member Adelbert Bryan voting no. Sen. Vargrave Richards expressed the opinion of most of his minority colleagues when he said, "There are certain sections that are critical and so contrary to my thinking that I could not vote for it."
The bill, about one-eighth the size of the massive Omnibus Act of 2001 sent down by the 23rd Legislature, includes:
– $4 million for television advertising to promote the territory.
– $1 million to hire 50 police officers and $80,000 to hire a police psychologist.
– $1 million to purchase 75 police vehicles, to be divided equally between the territory's two districts.
It also contains a provision hiking senators' pay to keep it commensurate with commissioners' salaries, should they get raises, and a number of territorywide capital improvement projects.
Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. made the successful the motion to override the governor's vetoes of a number of items in the multimillion-dollar FY 2001 appropriations bill. The senators voted 11-2 to override vetoes of appropriating $700,000 to the Water and Power Authority to relocate potable-water lines to Estate Great Pond on St. Croix, $250,000 to build bleachers at the St. Croix Motor Sports Complex, $100,000 to the V.I. Track and Field Association, and $150,000 to the V. I. Tennis Association for travel, equipment and tournaments.
Also on the list of overrides was $100,000 to the V.I. Agriculture Department to establish a stray-animal disposal program to slaughter cattle, goats and sheep and distribute the meat at no cost to government agencies and low-income families; $500,000 to the GERS for early retirement of hazardous-duty employees of the Public Works and Health Departments; $200,000 to Water Bay Condominiums Association on St. Croix to repair units and correct flooding problems; $225,000 to the Labor Department to establish a Youth Resources and Entrepreneurship Center on St. Croix; and $8,800 to the Education Department for electrical installation services.
The senators also passed the remaining budget bills and resolutions left over from Monday's session:
– $2.6 million for the Territorial Court Public Defender.
– $24.2 million for the Territorial Court.
– A resolution naming a portion of a scenic road on St. Croix's east end the Paraxedes Nieves Ridge Road.
– A resolution naming the Coral Bay fire station on St. John for the late Hugo Otis Liburd.
Also passed was a measure providing that funds appropriated to the Government Development Bank to establish a micro-credit loan program may not be commingled with any other government loan program funds, and that the loan program may provide unsecured loans at an interest rate not to exceed 5 percent. It was passed 11-4, with four absent.
Sens. Liburd, Jones and Emmet Hansen II expressed strong approval for the measure. Hansen called it an "excellent piece of legislation." Jones agreed, saying the bill would stimulate the V.I. economy, and Liburd said, "If it will assist the Government Development Bank, it definitely has my full support."
The Senate is scheduled to meet in special session at 10 a.m. Friday. The governor called the session for the lawmakers to consider the government employees' new group health plan, which did not arrive in the Senate chambers until almost noon Tuesday. The contract must be approved before Sept. 30, when the old contract expires.

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