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PSC Asks to Increase Budget 15 Percent

July 19, 2005 – Lights managed to stay on in the Legislative Conference Room on St. Croix long enough for a hearing on the Public Services Commission's proposed budget Monday. That was about it, though, because the government section of the building then lost power and telephone service for the rest of the day and into Tuesday, government sources said.
At the hearing, PSC Chairman Valencio Jackson reportedly requested $1 million for his 2006 budget, about 15 percent more than the PSC is getting this year. He said the workload at the PSC is growing. The commission is responsible for oversight of the Water and Power Authority, Innovative Telephone, both cable TV companies and both ferry boat operations.
Senators took the opportunity at the hearing to draw attention to two other issues – the non re-appointment of Jackson to the PSC and weaning WAPA away from oil to alternative fuels.
"I strongly believe that WAPA won't be able to reduce its charges until it starts using alternative fuels," Sen. Ronald Russell said in an interview Tuesday.
Russell was also one of the senators who questioned the wisdom of Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in not reappointing Jackson to the PSC board. (See "Governor Seeking to Replace PSC Chairman Jackson").
Russell said it appears the governor wants to "stack the deck" in his favor instead of the consumer's favor. He suggested the governor and Jackson meet and discuss their differences.
Sen. Louis Hill also on Tuesday showed support for Jackson. "Valencio Jackson is a strong advocate for the consumer. He is unmatched by anyone on that board," Hill said.
Jackson did not fear taking Innovative or WAPA officials to task to make sure consumers got a fair shake, Hill said, adding that the governor's move really surprised him. "Why would the governor remove the person who has advocated so well? Is it in the interest of the people or in the interest of Innovative?" Hill asked.
Hill said Jackson was against tax breaks for Innovative Telephone, and "rightly so."
Government sources said power was still out at the building Tuesday afternoon, a day after a Committee of the Whole and Finance Committee hearings were supposed to take place.
A Finance Committee hearing is scheduled for St. Croix at the Legislative Hall at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

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