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Senator Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg said he was disgusted by the Administration and the EDA's excuses for giving VITELCO another tax holiday.
"They have said nothing of any substance or validity," Donastorg said. "In fact, the more we learn the worse this whole thing is sounding."
Some EDA officials appeared before the Committee on Economic Development and Consumer Protection on Tuesday evening. Those that refused to attend were subpoenaed to the next committee meeting, for which a date has not been set.
Administration officials also took to the airwaves Wednesday in order to defend their controversial position regarding VITELCO.
"They have offered two excuses for granting corporate welfare to this unethical company," Donastorg said. "First, they claim that this is a good benefit package because it grants less to VITELCO than its previous agreement. This holds no water because all intelligent people realize that VITELCO should have never been given tax exemptions in the first place. The second excuse is that they gave these tax breaks so that telephone rates would be reduced by the Public Services Commission. This is a lie as the PSC actually forbade VITELCO to reapply for benefits. I can't believe the excuses I can only imagine they are running scared at this point."
VITELCO's previous benefits were terminated in 2003 four months before they were set to expire. VITELCO requested that the benefits be rescinded because the company had continually failed to meet the terms of the agreement. The tax breaks recently granted by the EDA are retroactive to 2003, meaning that VITELCO will not have to pay taxes during the period that its benefits were expired.
"We have been trying to find out if VITELCO paid taxes over the last year," Donastorg said. "Now we have the answer. How are the hardworking men and women of this territory supposed to feel when they diligently pay their taxes."
Donastorg said it is unconscionable to grant additional tax breaks to a company that never complied with its previous agreement and dramatically reduced its work force.
"The EDA was created to secure jobs for Virgin Islanders, not as corporate welfare for billionaires," Donastorg said. "The Governor said we were in financial trouble yet we are giving away $50 million- plus in tax revenues for no good reason. What about the schools? What about the roads? What are these people thinking?"
The senator said that Virgin Islands phone service is on the decline.
"It doesn't take an expert to determine that VITELCO has not invested in improving phone service," he said. "How often do you hear that all circuits are busy? How long have you had to wait for your phone to be repaired?"
Donastorg said he would be convening another meeting to revisit this issue in late April. In the meantime, he urged Virgin Islands consumers to make their concerns known to the Governor who has final approval over all EDA tax benefit agreements.