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OUTLINE OF BILLS SUBMITTED TO SPECIAL SESSION

May 21, 2003 – Following is an outline of the proposals submitted by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to the Legislature late Tuesday night for consideration at Thursday's special session that the governor called on Monday to address the territory's fiscal crisis.
The numbers assigned here to the bills are arbitrary.
Bill No. 1 (borrowing) would:
– Authorize the Public Finance Authority to issue up to $235 million in bonds, with up to $100 million to finance the government's working capital obligations, up to $20 million to finance private economic development initiatives on St. Croix, up to $10 million for a guaranty reserve fund to provide credit enhancement for financing of the Carifest theme park, and up to $80 million to finance the construction of a 250-room hotel on St. Croix.
– Authorize the government to pledge gross receipts taxes as security for repayment of the loan note.
– Provide for gross receipts taxes to be deposited in a Gross Receipts Taxes Special Escrow Account, other than the first $250,000 per annum, which by law is to be remitted to the Moderate Income Housing Fund.
– Provide for the government to continue granting gross receipts tax exemptions as an economic development incentive, so long as such exemptions do not cause any given year's estimated gross receipts taxes to be less than 150 percent of the maximum scheduled payments of principal and interest on all outstanding bonds, notes or other evidences of indebtedness secured by a pledge of the gross receipts taxes.
Bill No. 2 (appropriations, benefits) would:
– Add hazardous duty Water and Power Authority workers to those allowed by law to take early retirement at full benefits.
– Appropriate $600,000 from the Land Bank Fund to the Public Works Department for a new public cemetery on St. Thomas.
– Appropriate $2.3 million from the Union Arbitration Award and Government Employees Increment Fund to the General Fund.
– Appropriate $50,000 from the General Fund to the Legal Judgments Special Fund.
Bill No. 3 (appropriations, primarily) would:
– Appropriate $9.4 million ($5.4 million by July 31 and another $4 million by Sept. 30) from the General Fund to the Public Works Department for wastewater collection and treatment system repair and maintenance territorywide as mandated by District Court orders, consent orders and the government's memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
– Appropriate $750,000 from the General Fund to Public Works for emergency repairs to the wastewater collection system territorywide.
– Appropriate $7 million from the General Fund to cover the government's share of increased health insurance premium costs.
– Appropriate $750,000 from the General Fund to the Property and Procurement Department for "plans and other related costs" of a Workforce Development Center.
– Change date provisions of the V.I. Tax Study Commission (citations of Sept. 30, 2001 become Nov. 30, 2003; citations of Sept. 30, 2002 become June 20, 2005).
– Increase allocations to the Finance Department to cover the cost of audits (replacing the figure $1,348,198 with $2,544,800, and replacing the figure $2,686,451 with $3,883,053).
– Increase an appropriation from the Transportation Trust Fund "as a contribution" to the General Fund from $10 million to $11.5 million.
– Set the contributions to the cost of health insurance premiums at 60 percent by the government and 40 percent by employees.
Bill No. 4 (taxes and fees) would:
– Create an "environmental excise tax" of 2 cents per pound on commodities imported into or produced in the territory for business purposes, to be collected until such time as the administration's proposed Waste Management Authority is enacted, to fund "immediate environmental changes." Leases and rentals of imported commodities would be included, unless obtained for use for 180 days or less. Crude oil refined in the territory and refined petroleum products imported into the territory would instead pay an environmental excise tax of 20 cents per barrel. Exemptions: molasses for rum production and agricultural purposes; animal feed and commercial fertilizers; cement, steel, lumber and sheetrock for construction; merchandise disposed of in the course of export trade by V.I. importers and manufacturers to buyers taking delivery outside the territory; and other goods declared exempt by the Public Services Commission.
– Impose a $5-a-day surcharge on vehicles rented from car rental agencies.
– Increase taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel to 17 cents per gallon from 14 cents.
– Increase the highway user tax, commonly call the "road tax," to 16 cents per pound from 11 cents and making the tax applicable to taxis, which currently are exempt.
– Designate road tax revenues from taxis for a new Road Fund to be used for road maintenance and repair.
– Impose fees on containers shipped into the territory at the rate of $30 per trip of containers 20 feet in length and of $50 per trip on containers 40 feet or more in length.
Bill No. 5 (taxes and fees) would:
– Increase license fees for banking institutions, to $75,000 from the current $50,000, to $150,000 from the current $100,000, and to $2,500 from the current $1,500.
– Impose a 2 percent surcharge on hotel room charges in addition to the current 8 percent hotel room tax, with revenues to go into the General Fund.
– Increase the gross receipts tax to 4.75 percent from the current 4 percent.
– Impose a 2 percent excise tax on food items; however, candy, chewing gum, sodas and other items "not consumed primarily for nutritive purposes" would be exempted.
– (an unclear reference to adding the language "for personal use items, the value of the articles, goods, merchandise and commodities is less than $500")
– Impose a sliding scale stamp tax on the sale of real property to replace the current 2 percent tax; rates would be: 2 percent for property valued up to $100,000, 2.5 percent for property valued $100,001 to $500,000, 3 percent for property valued $500,001 to $1 million and 3.5 percent for property valued over $1 million.
– Provide that "no real property shall be valued at less than the assessed value by the Tax Collector."
– Change the payroll schedule to twice a month instead of every other week, thus eliminating two pay periods per year. (This would not affect the annual salaries of employees.)
Bill No. 6 (property tax ruling compliance) would:
– Provide for property owners who pay their 1999 through 2004 commercial and personal property tax bills prior to the enactment of a District Court-ordered revised property assessment system to be entitled to a credit applied to their subsequent year's tax bill for any overpayment; and for any such taxpayers who underpay said taxes to be billed retroactively for prior-year tax obligations.
– Make the above provision null and void if a higher court reverses the District Court order and upholds the territory's present assessment system.
– Give the Board of Tax Review power to designate a hearing officer to conduct hearings to compile evidence and establish findings of fact in appeals or complaints, providing, however, that the final decision shall rest with the board itself.
– Establish a Tax Assessor's Revolving Fund which shall consist of 1 percent of real property taxes collected annually by the Finance Department, or an amount not to exceed $500,000, plus any legislative appropriations.
– Provide for the Tax Assessor's Revolving Fund money to go for equipment, staffing, training and professional services to maintain and improve the Office of the Tax Assessor.

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