Aug. 20, 2002 – After hearing testimony from two top government economic officials, Sen. Carlton Dowe moved on Monday to table a bill he had sponsored to require a shorter time period for the Economic Development Commission to review applications for tax benefits.
The measure was before the Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.
Dowe and Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd were chief sponsors of the legislation requiring the EDC to complete its review of applications for tax benefits within 90 days.
Nadine Marchena, Economic Development Authority assistant chief executive officer, told the committee that the 90-day period was unrealistic and would "put at risk the accuracy and validity of the review process."
Dowe said he had been eager to abbreviate the process so that potential investors wouldn't lose interest and "go to Aruba or some other jurisdiction."
At the committee hearing Monday, Marchena presented a flow chart of the 16-step application review process. The steps include two meetings with the applicant, with transcripts taken at both. Including getting the proceedings transcribed, this process alone could account for 60 of the 90 days, she said. After the EDC makes its recommendation, the governor has 30 days to complete his review and sign off.
"If he took the 30 days, the 90 days would have been accounted for," Marchena said. However, she added, "the governor usually only takes about two weeks."
It has taken as much as 10 months to complete the review of applications in the past, Marchena said, but now "the average is 120 to 150 days."
Lauritz Mills, Bureau of Economic Research director, backed Marchena's comments. She stressed the need for the commission to have time to perform due diligence on applications, with "minimum economic opportunity losses to the territory."
Mills said a means of monitoring the cost effectiveness of the EDC tax-incentive program is needed. She said little information is available to determine whether the incentives outweigh the cost to the territory. She said her bureau would work with the EDC to develop a cost-benefit model to "identify and quantify, if possible, the costs and benefits of the EDC incentive program."
The commission has begun working on compliance with new legislation that requires EDC beneficiaries to provide retirement plans and other benefits to their employees.
Marchena said EDC's marketing division made a presentation at a Caribbean-Latin American Association conference in Miami and, as a result, a company is locating in the territory and is in the hiring process.
And, she said, the EDC is the subject of the cover story of the August/September issue of Expansion Solutions, a trade magazine. The cover photo is of Maxime Cabo, co-owner of Paradise Sodas, the maker of Brow sodas. The story also features several other EDC beneficiaries including the Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino and Seaborne Airlines.
Dowe's colleagues approved his motion to have the bill held in committee until he and Marchena can confer on a workable time limit.
In other action, the committee also held a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Roosevelt David and Lorraine Berry for a minor language change. The measure would amend the current law requiring motorists to stop 10 feet from the front when approaching and not less than 10 feet from the back when overtaking or following a bus displaying flashing signals. The amendment would add vehicles marked "Senior Citizens" to those now covered by the restrictions.
Malito Smith Jr., Human Services deputy commissioner, testified in favor of the bill. He said it would greatly improve the safely of senior citizens being transported by the department's vans and buses.
Sen. Adelbert Bryan, the committee chair, told David he could simply reword the measure and special order it at the next full session of the Legislature.
Committee members Bryan, Donald "Ducks" Cole, David, Emmett Hansen II and Celestino A. White Sr. attended the meeting. Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste and Vargrave Richards were absent. Sens. Berry and Dowe also were present.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix 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.