June 10, 2003 – The curtain will rise at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Frederiksted legislative conference room on the Senate Finance Committee's annual drama of deciding how much money the government should commit to spending in the next fiscal year, and how it should be spent.
As the players on this public stage, both senators and executive branch officials, embark on the Fiscal Year 2003 budget hearings, it promises to be a long, hot summer.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull got his proposed FY 2003 budget of $567.7 million down the hill to the Legislature on May 30, just under the wire to meet the May 31 deadline. It calls for a $16.7 million increase in spending over his request for FY 2002, and $138.1 million more than he sought for FY 2001. Fiscal Year 2003 begins on Oct. 1, 2002.
The budget package does not contain any new taxes or major surprises, but the stage is set for conflict nonetheless. Finance chair Alicia "Chucky" Hansen was adamant in refusing to bow to Turnbull's repeated pleas for lump-sum FY 2002 budgets for the various executive branch departments and agencies. She insisted on line-item budgets for the current fiscal year, stating the need for senators to approve spending measures and transfers The process has kept government agency heads beating a path to the committee's door with funding transfer petitions for the last several months, with nearly four more months to go in FY 2002.
The FY 2003 hearings open on Tuesday with a budget overview and revenue projections from Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull, Office of Management and Budget Director Ira Mills, Internal Revenue Director Louis Willis, Bureau of Economic Research Director Lauritz Mills and Tax Assessor Roy Martin.
They will review the status of 15 government funds ranging from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the Union Arbitration Fund, from the Crisis Intervention Fund to the Hurricane Hugo Insurance Claims Fund. In the afternoon, the committee will hear from officials of the Economic Development Authority, Government Development Bank, Economic Development Commission and Small Business Development Agency. The last three come under the EDA., which was created by the 23rd Legislature. The Economic Development Commission was formerly the Industrial Development Commission.
The fiscal status review will continue on St. Thomas on Wednesday beginning at 10 a.m. with an overview of The West Indian Co. and the Public Finance Authority. The PFA raises capital for essential public projects. WICO owns and operates the Long Bay dock, owns the adjacent landfill, and manages the Havensight Mall Shopping Center for the Government Employees Retirement System, which owns the mall.
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