June 17, 2005 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull was upbeat this Friday about the possibility of amending the U.S. Government's recent regulations changes affecting the V.I. Economic Development Commission program.
During a teleconference from Washington, D.C., with three reporters in the Virgin Islands, Turnbull said that everyone he talked to in the capital was "favorably disposed" to keeping the program alive.
He said in the last three days he has met with over a half dozen senators and congressmen, the secretary of interior and representatives from the Bush administration.
He said he was pushing for two distinct changes in the regulations — one, regarding who is considered a bona fide resident of the Virgin Islands, and two, how source income is defined.
The recent proposed regulations call for an individual to demonstrate they have spent 183 days on the ground in the Virgin Islands during the last year. He said he is proposing that the regulation be changed to an average of 122 days in a three-year period. He said that change would satisfy EDC beneficiaries.
The proposed regulations state that for income to be considered as source income, and eligible for benefits, it has to be earned by people with their feet on the ground in the Virgin Islands. Turnbull is asking that all income earned in the United States be considered as source income.
He told the reporters that there has been a "change in attitude" as far as the Treasury Department goes. He attributes that to the ongoing lobbying effort of V.I. officials. He said the Virgin Islands has been conducting an outreach program that has brought senators and members of the House of Representatives to the islands. He said, "They saw the situation. They saw the program was helping the islands. They saw it was not fraudulent, that we have real business people here."
He said the lobbying effort will continue and that he will be in Washington, D.C., for the hearing on the proposed regulations on July 21.
One worry of government officials and business people is that just the mere uncertainty of the program is hurting the fragile V.I. economy.
Turnbull said that the Treasury is talking about sending out notices to the Virgin Islands that will indicate in what direction the Treasury is going concerning EDC issues. Turnbull said these notices could be "very helpful."
Turnbull said that he hoped the new definitions would show up in the regulations drawn up by the end of the year and possibly in new legislation in the fall.
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