June 18, 2003 – Following is a copy of a letter delivered to the office of Senate President David Jones on the morning of June 17:
Dear Senator Jones:
The entire Virgin Islands community watches anxiously as the very serious and important numbers game, also referred to as reducing the deficit, is played.
Many persons and organizations, including the league, have offered recommendations for short- and long-term solutions to our financial situation. The minority bloc of the Legislature has suggested a 25-point plan to date. The executive branch has put forward its plan for financial recovery, much of which has been rejected or put on hold by the Legislature's Finance Committee to date.
In the interim, as the crisis escalates, compounded by the delay in addressing it and outside factors such as the federal tax reduction act, piecemeal efforts are being made, most notably the proportionate rollback in salaries for those in the exempt service. But it is time for serious action to fully address this fiscal crisis and engage long-term solutions.
Our decision makers can no longer play one interest group against the other or pander to selfish interests. We're all in this boat together, and we must all make sacrifices in order to right this ship. No suggestion or recommendation can be rejected out of hand; compromises must be sought wherever possible. If a $5-a-day tax on rental cars is considered excessive, what about a lesser rate? If amendments to, or repeal of, Act 4440 is politically untenable, what about a moratorium or suspension of this statute until we are set on a sound financial course?
Will the Legislature address the negative effects of unfunded federal mandates that have now grown to an additional estimated cost of $8 million per year? What revenue enhancement measures will be forthcoming, especially if the decision is made to incur further debt by borrowing to meet operating costs?
We need a realistic and comprehensive plan. A little bit here and a little bit there is all well and good, and the league agrees that "one, one fill basket." But we need a comprehensive plan that encompasses expenditure reductions and short- and long-term revenue streams. Just as important, we need an honestly balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2004.
The League of Women Voters has played the role of Cassandra foretelling this elevated fiscal crisis for far too many years. We once again remind the Legislature and the executive branch that this very large territorial burden can be removed, and removed with pride, only when they have walked tall and straightforward with a realistic and honest plan.
Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, President
League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands
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