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Wednesday, July 24, 2024


June 27, 2003 – The St. Croix branch of the V.I. Republican Party is calling on the U.S. Department of Interior to set up a financial control board "to help the U.S. Virgin Islands solve its fiscal crisis."
According to a release distributed on Friday, "since neither the executive nor legislative branches of the V.I. government have come up with satisfactory measures to correct the current fiscal crisis, a financial control board is the only feasible alternative."
The leadership of the St. Croix GOP unanimously approved a motion asking for the establishment of such an entity "made up of professionals," Reuben Fenton, St. Croix party president, said. The motion further called for the control board to dispense any funds borrowed in the future by the V.I. government.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, a Democrat, "has not lived up to the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Interior which he signed in order to get the last loan," the Republicans charge. Further, the release stated, the funds thus obtained "have been used for payroll and other current operating expenses. This merely means that in another six or eight months, another loan will be necessary for government operations."
In 1999, the government floated a $300 million bond issue. On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee approved the governor's proposal to borrow another $235 million via the same route.
Last week, the full Senate approved several new and increased taxes also sought by the governor to reduce the administration's currently projected shortfall of $152 million by the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30. They are: a new "environmental user fee" of 2 cents per pound on goods imported into or produced in the territory, new fees on containers shipped to the territory, an increase in the road tax of 5 cents per pound, an increase of about 50 percent in bank licensing fees, and a new 4 percent tax on items valued at more than $1,000 imported for personal use. The lawmakers also authorized the government to increase fees yearly by as much as $100.
The bills were in the legislative legal counsel's office as of Wednesday, with no indication of when they would be delivered to Government House.
The release from the St. Croix GOP stated that "the additional taxes proposed by the Legislature in lieu of cutting government expenditures will cause severe financial distress on all sectors of the business community. In the future, the government also will be affected as businesses close down and the tax revenues which support government disappear."
Sen. Lorraine Berry, the Legislature's senior member and a Democrat throughout her political career, asked federal authorities on June 19 for financial and technical assistance in setting up a control board in the territory similar to the one that temporarily took over management of the financial affairs of the Washington, D.C., local government in 1995.
One of the key players in that effort, Herbert R. Tillery, now an appointive deputy mayor of the federal district, was in the territory two weeks ago and was a principal presenter at a forum on government leadership and management.
Turnbull and Bruce Babbitt, then secretary of the Interior, signed the MOU in 1999. An audit of compliance with the memorandum on the part of both the V.I. government and Interior was conducted by Interior's Office of Inspector General last November and reported in January. It found accomplishments and failures on both sides. (See MOU compliance audit: successes, shortcomings".)

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