Dec. 23, 2003 – Senate President David Jones said on Tuesday evening that he was "shocked" and "extremely disappointed" to learn that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull "had vetoed the entire budget after our months of work and collaboration and consultation with his own financial team."
The Senate majority and the governor's fiscal team had extensive, seemingly endless meetings before and after the governor sent his budget to the Legislature in late September.
"They are devoid of any creative ideas," Jones said of the administration officials. He said the veto action "is shortsighted and shows a lack of creativity. The governor's advisers are more interested in increasing taxes and putting an onerous burden on the people, because that's what they sent down to us. We rejected that for something more creative."
Among the proposals in Turnbull's budget that the Senate rejected were a cutback to a 36-hour work week for government employees, an increase in the gross receipts tax, a 10 percent income tax surcharge and a year-long moratorium on collective bargaining.
"It's unfortunate the governor took the path of confrontation," Jones said. "Are you telling me that the governor couldn't exercise his line-item veto power, but instead took the entire package? This is a total disrespect for the Legislature and for the people of the Virgin Islands."
Jones continued: "The preponderance of the revenues that we adopted came from the governor's advisers. Their projections were all there. The only things we initiated were the property tax measure with the tax anticipatory note, the Insurance Guaranty Fund letter of credit and the wholesale gas tax.
"The rest of it came from him [Turnbull] on the revenue side, so I don't understand. If he has a problem with the expenditure side, we did that to fund the long overdue salary increases for the firefighters, the teachers and the others. It appears to me that the administration wants to deny and continue to deny the negotiated salary increases due the police and firemen, Human Services employees and the teachers, and then reduce these people's work week. And I will not stand for that.
Again he charged that "the administration is absolutely devoid of creative ideas."
"It's absolute nonsense about the deficit he mentioned," he said. "We have policies in place to make the administration more efficient in collecting taxes. There's tens of millions of dollars out there that the administration needs to collect. Those revenues aren't even contained in our budget projections. In this fiscal year, the so-called 'non-recurring' revenue stream would be replaced by an aggressive tax-collection regime; this was to buy time to deal with those issues we need to deal with."
Jones also said that he doesn't understand where Turnbull "gets the three times tax in one year. The tax collections would be two in one year — with a grace period and an extension if necessary. At no time would you see three in one year."
The Senate president allowed as how the holiday season for him is not shaping up to be very merry. "Tell the people I wish them a happy and prosperous new year in spite of the governor's action," he said.
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