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REPUBLICANS BLAME DEMOCRATS FOR FISCAL CRISIS

June 16, 2003 – The V.I. Republican Party has taken the V.I. Democratic Party to task for what the GOP leadership termed the Democrats' "misguided" belief that "the key to prosperity has been to borrow [money] and commit future generations to pay back those ill-advised loans."
And, the Republicans charge, increasing the tax burden on the private sector will only make things worse, "forcing more business to close" and driving former taxpayers to "leave the islands, taking already diminishing monies that pay for government."
A release issued on Monday said that the Republican Territorial Committee, meeting on Saturday via video-teleconference hookup, adopted a resolution stating that "the economic recovery plan proposed by the governor and now pending before the Legislature is fundamentally flawed and, if enacted, would have dire consequences, particularly on the private sector and [its] employees."
The full Senate is scheduled to take up five of six bills submitted as a package by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull at its session on Tuesday. The Senate Finance Committee already has rejected a number of the new and increased tax provisions proposed, and members of the Democratic majority have been outspoken in their opposition to the governor's taxing, borrowing and spending plans.
Additionally, all 15 lawmakers told the governor they would not consider his plan to float another $235 million bond issue unless he rolled back hefty pay raises he granted unclassified employees last year. Turnbull's response last Thursday was an offer to reduce the salaries by 2 percent to 10 percent on a sliding scale, but only for six months; the Legislature's collective view of the offer remains to be seen.
Julio Brady, a former lieutenant governor and attorney general, made reference at Saturday's GOP meeting to Turnbull's comments about opposing the furlough of government workers because on an island they can't just drive to the next town and find work. "The governor did not express the same compassion for those thousands of Virgin Islanders in the private sector who have lost jobs, businesses and homes, and been forced to relocate if they wanted to eat," the release cited Brady as saying.
James M. Oliver, V.I. Republican chair, said "the problem has been compounded over the last two decades by the predominantly Democratic-controlled Legislatures."
The release noted that the local GOP leadership "has never been invited to take part in the bipartisan approach traditional in times of crisis. But local Democratic leadership continues to appeal to the Republican administration in Washington for financial aid."
There are no elected Republicans in the Senate or the administration at present.
Holland L. Redfield II, GOP national committeeman and a former senator, said the V.I. Republicans have had an economic recovery plan "in place for the last 20 years," with a balanced budget spelled out in the platform of the party's Brady/Redfield ticket in the 1994 gubernatorial campaign and again in that of the Bornn/Golden team last year.
The release also quoted Redfield as saying that "it is hard to plead the case of the Virgin Islands when the government has not met the conditions [Turnbull] agreed to when signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department of Interior contingent upon receiving the last loan." And, he said, "further funding is usually denied when compliance has not been forthcoming."
The committee took Turnbull to task as an educator for the accreditation and federal funding problems facing the educational system. "Our local public schools are currently ineligible for expanded federal funds because of Democratic administration bureaucratic bungling," the release said. "The Virgin Islands is not among the 50 states, Puerto Rico and [Washington] D.C. who have met the federal guidelines under the No Child Left Behind legislation."
The committee also came out in support of the $400 tax credit "that should be paid to all qualifying Virgin Islanders" in the territory's tax system that mirrors that of the federal government. President Bush signed the new tax-cut law on May 28.
"The fact that the local treasury is empty due to the revenue shortfalls, mismanagement of funds and self-serving priorities [does] not exempt the Virgin Islands from its duty to comply with the laws of the United States," the release stated. Further, Redfield said, "Failure to do so will be challenged by the Republican Party in the federal District Court system."
The territory's Republican National Committee members — Redfield, Oliver and Lilliana Belardo de O'Neal — will attend a meeting of the committee in New York City in July, according to the release, "and will continue to meet and work with the key members of the Department of Interior, the White House and members of Congress."

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