Aug. 6, 2002 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull removed six ornaments from the Legislature's latest amendment-laden "Christmas tree bill" but left intact the six parts of the original measure — making property tax assessments biennial instead of annual and making five appropriations totaling $7.5 million.
According to a release issued Monday afternoon from Government House, the governor acted on Friday.
The six vetoes were:
– A section mandating the local public television station, WTJX-TV, to air Senate committee meetings and legislative sessions. Turnbull said the station "would not be able to fulfill its mandated obligations in broadcasting public programs if it had to change its format to accommodate the change in the law," and this in turn would put its license and charter at risk.
– A proposal to use cable television's public access channel or its government channel to telecast legislative proceedings on St. Croix. The designated public access channel "must be available to the general public," Turnbull said, "and the government channel has been assigned to the Education Department for educational programming and community events."
Sen. Adelbert Bryan has waged a long-standing battle with the administration for control of public access or government channels for Senate use. There is now a petition before the Public Services Commission to require the channels for Legislature use. A PSC spokesperson said Tuesday that the petition may be heard at the commisison's September meeting; there is no PSC meeting scheduled for August.
– An amendment repealing earlier funding to repair Motor Vehicle Bureau facilities in both districts. Turnbull also said this section was in conflict with another section of the bill and its passage "was obviously a mistake."
– A provision pledging gross receipts tax revenues for repayment of borrowing. First, Turnbull said, the gross receipts taxes already are pledged to the government's $300 million bond issue; and second, passage would have given the governor and the Economic Development Authority "control over pledging of the same government funds."
– A $5 million appropriation to purchase of 12 acres of land on St. Croix utilizing funds in the Land Bank Fund. "The government should not appropriate funds until a final negotiated price has been determined," the governor said.
– Another unidentified appropriation, on the grounds that funding will not be available in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
The governor approved the multi-sectioned bill to which the amendments were attached. It calls for:
– Making property assessment by the Tax Assessor's Office every other year instead of annual.
– Creating a special fund to repair the territory's wastewater system in compliance with a December 2001 District Court order.
– Depositing $4 million from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund into the Special Projects/Wastewater Systems Repairs Fund.
– Appropriating $2.7 million from the General Fund to the Police Department for hiring officers and a psychologist,and for purchasing and maintaining police vehicles.
– Appropriating $700,000 from the General Fund to the V.I. Housing Authority for police force expenses.
– Appropriating $100,000 to the Human Services Department — $50,000 for Bethlehem House on St. Thomas and St. Croix, and $50,000 for the Women's Coalition on St. Croix.
In his letter to Liburd, Turnbull warned the Legislature, as he has done for months, not to pass any more appropriations this fiscal year, "since many of the funding sources are currently extremely over-obligated." In its most recent full session, on July 18, the Legislature spent more than $6 million, much of it money that the administration says does not exist.
In other action, Turnbull signed a bill designating the first week of June as Virgin Islands Child's Week and another naming the pavilion at the Police Department's Patrick Sweeney Headquarters in Christiansted in honor of Officer Violet Damidaux.
He also acknowledged Senate resolutions to ask the Government Employees Retirement System to rename the building housing the Casino Control Commission for George A. Farrelly, and to ask the Water and Power Authority to rename its Krum Bay power plant in honor of Randolph Harley. The Legislature had voted to rename the two structures, but neither property is owned by the government, so it lacked the authority to name them.
Earlier this year, the Senate voted to name the police pavilion for Farrelly, a onetime Police commissioner, but the governor vetoed that measure in June, stating that police personnel had objected, saying the structure should be named for Damidaux.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.