Jan. 26, 2004 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's State of the Territory Address on Monday night, his sixth, has every indication of being close to last year's in terms of emotion surrounding it.
Last year's address came on the heels of huge public protests over raises he proposed and the Senate approved for the governor, lieutenant governor and senators. Although Turnbull had vetoed the raises in the face of widespread community outcries on the Friday preceding the Monday address, some protestors still gathered outside the Legislature building that evening to announce they were not through.
Monday night will not be without protests, either. Daryl George, president of Local 2125 of the International Association of Firefighters, said the union members, joined by their St. Croix counterparts, will demonstrate.
Vernelle de Lagarde, president of the St. Thomas-St. John teachers union, said the teachers do not plan to demonstrate formally — but added that if the firefighters turn out, "I'll be there."
Turnbull shot down the hopes of the firefighters, teachers and other unionized employees when he vetoed the fiscal year 2004 budget passed by the Legislature. The Senate had included a $12 million appropriation in the miscellaneous section to fund the raises, which were negotiated in 2002.
The territory's economy will doubtless be high on the governor's agenda, likely followed by education issues. It is also anticipated that Turnbull will reiterate his disapproval of Delegate Donna M. Christensen's proposal before Congress to create a territorial chief financial officer, along with Sen. Lorraine Berry's proposal to create a financial control board, which she has now recast as a financial "review" board. Turnbull has publicly expressed his vehement objection to the delegate's proposal from its inception.
Meantime, early on Monday afternoon Senate President David Jones announced the cancellation of a legislative session that had been scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, just hours after the governor's address. Jones, in a two-sentence release, gave no reason for the cancellation; however, according to knowledgeable sources, the Senate majority held a caucus on Monday morning prior to the announcement.
On the Senate agenda for the Tuesday session were five new FY 2004 budget bills which if approved could, in effect, cancel out the governor's Dec. 23 veto of the budget approved by the Legislature in November.
The measures are:
– To appropriate funds for Legislature salaries, operating expenses and equipment for fiscal year 2004.
– To appropriate funds for Territorial Court and Judicial Council salaries and operating expenses for fiscal year 2004, and for other purposes.
– To appropriate funds for Territorial Public Defender operating expenses for fiscal year 2004, and for other purposes.
– To appropriate funds for University of the Virgin Islands salaries and expenses for fiscal year 2004, and for other purposes.
– To provide for the operation of the V.I. government in fiscal year 2004, and for other purposes.
The Senate majority and the governor have not been on cordial terms since his veto. And the majority has indicated it is not going to accept that veto lying down.
Jones said upon hearing of the veto that he was "shocked" and "extremely disappointed" to learn Turnbull "had vetoed the entire budget after our months of work and collaboration and consultation with his own financial team."
The senators are particularly upset at the administration's adjustment of their own budget, which they say the administration does not have the authority to touch. Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Louis Hill challenged the administration on the issue in a Finance Committee meeting last week. (See "Budget issues pit Senate against administration".)
The governor's 7 p.m. address will be televised by WTJX/Channel 12, Channel 2, WSVI/Channel 8 and WIUJ and broadcast by radio stations WVWI, WSTA and WIUJ. The Source will post the full text of the address later Monday night.
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