July 16, 2002 – A proposal to dismantle the Anti-Litter and Beautification Commission drew shocked responses from the Senate Finance Committee in its fourth day of hearings on Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's proposed Fiscal Year 2003 budget.
A provision in the governor's proposal to create a Waste Management Authority calls for restructuring the commission. Violet Anne Golden, ALBC St. Croix director and a member of the 23rd Legislature, told her former Senate colleagues that she was incensed over the move.
"The executive branch is proposing to transfer all activities, funds, assets, personnel" of the St. Croix ALBC operation to the Waste Management Authority, Golden said, according to The Avis. Such a move, she said would be "essentially destroying the operations" of the "community-based entities in favor of a new bureaucracy whose sole purpose will be to manage the solid waste of this territory."
According to The Avis, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, the Finance Committee chair, said she would go to war against anyone who attempted to break up the anti-litter commission, an initiative she sponsored in the 17th Legislature. Her committee colleagues overwhelmingly pledged to support her in this regard. They also supported Golden's St. Croix ALBC budget request for $2 million, up from the administration's budgeted $1.7 million.
In the hearing Monday on St. Croix, the committee also heard from the Public Works Department and the Economic Development Authority.
Turnbull has proposed a $26.9 million budget for Public Works, an increase of $2.4 from its current $24.5 appropriation. Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood told the committee that plans are moving forward on an interim solid-waste disposal plan to comply with federal orders to shut down the Anguilla landfill by Dec. 31, according to the published report. The government recently selected a Puerto Rico contractor to handle the disposal of St. Croix's 220 tons a day of trash by wrapping, baling and stacking it on an interim basis for up to five years until a full-scale waste-processing system can be developed.
The government wants to set up the temporary waste-disposal facility at the Anguilla landfill, but that hinges on Federal Aviation Administration approval; FAA regulations specify that landfill shall be within 10,000 feet of an airport because of dangers posed to planes landing and taking off by foraging birds. Callwood told the committee that he anticipates getting FAA approval, along with that of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, within a few weeks, and that the interim plan should be before the Senate for ratification shortly thereafter.
Callwood also said it appears no funds have been budgeted by the administration for road repairs in FY 2003. He noted that the government's Road Fund has been raided in the past for other purposes. Last year alone, $12 million was taken from the fund for government employee wage increases.
These remarks raised the hackles of Sen. Emmett Hansen II. Hansen has sponsored legislation which would fund road repairs, street lighting and potable water delivery through set-asides from property taxes that could not be used for other purposes. His Infrastructure Maintenance Act of 2001 was recently vetoed by Turnbull, but Hansen said on Tuesday that he anticipates an override of the veto in Thursday's full Senate session.
Hansen said he is appalled at what he sees as Turnbull's lack of understanding of basic public finances. He reiterated his earlier comments upon learning of Turnbull's veto: "If you take money from the people and don't give them something back, that's what's called theft." He said that the people who pay property taxes "have never gotten anything back in terms of basic services — roads, water and street lights."
In its presentation Monday, the Economic Development Authority asked for a $3.2 million appropriation for FY 2003, according to a release from the Legislature. That is nearly triple Turnbull's proposed $1.2 million appropriation.
The EDA oversees the Economic Development Commission — what used to be the Industrial Development Commission — which oversees the territory's program of tax incentives to attract new businesses. The EDA also provides financial assistance to existing businesses and lends money to new businesses through other programs.
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