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Turnbull Vetoes Reduced Fuel Tax, Other Bills

Oct. 17, 2005 — While the majority of the Omnibus Act was signed into law Monday, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull did veto sections of the bill, including one that reduces the fuel tax for consumers.
In his transmittal letter to Senate President Lorraine L. Berry, Turnbull said the reduction from 14 cents to seven cents would affect the revenue stream for the Transportation Trust Fund — set up to provide funding for matters relating to transportation. In addition, Turnbull said the territory’s 14 cent tax was lower than any other jurisdiction’s and would not be a benefit to those residents still suffering from the high price of gas.
Turnbull also vetoed sections of the bill that would:
– Allow V.I. Port Authority Police Officers to participate in the Career Incentive Program. Turnbull said he had spoken to representatives from VIPA, who said the provision would interfere with their existing collective bargaining agreements.
– Repeal the Economic Development Fund to provide not more than $10,000 to establish an airline hub on St. Croix. Since the Economic Development Authority is currently in the process of rating this fund, which could provide financing for various projects throughout the territory, Turnbull urged senators not to remove it at this time.
— Allow the governor to enter into a contract for the design and construction of a parking lot and vendors facility in Cruz Bay, St. John. Turnbull said the government is currently in the final stages of securing a contract for the building of the parking facility. Any changes, he wrote, could not only delay the construction of the facility, but further "exacerbate the vehicle parking situation" on the island.
The Omnibus Bill, approved by senators earlier this month, also appropriates $59.5 million in unanticipated revenues recently discovered by the government to various departments and agencies. See "Omnibus Bill Included Laundry List of Other Provisions" and "Omnibus Bill Passes Almost Unanimously Despite Minority Grumblings".
A bill that adds language to the V.I. Code that allows non-unionized government employees who serve at the pleasure of an executive director or governing board to bring a job action suit against an employer if they are dismissed, demoted, or suspended was also vetoed by Turnbull.
"It is my position that boards, commissions, and other instrumentalities should have the full authority to manage their operations, and that includes the changing of their staff," Turnbull wrote.
Furthermore, Turnbull claimed employers do not "arbitrarily" terminate staff; instead, they must have "some cause for their action."
Turnbull added the bill would therefore create additional financial responsibilities for the government, overwhelm the Public Employees Relations Board, and fill important positions with people who should rightfully be "disciplined, demoted or terminated."
Turnbull also vetoed bills establishing a police chief in each district of the territory, and prohibiting individuals from being employed by any authority, agency or department within one year of serving on its board or commission.
While senators did agree in September the boards and commissions bill would promote transparency within these entities, Turnbull said the legislation will have "severe consequences" on the operation of government. Not only does the bill conflict with practices proven to be "beneficial," Turnbull said, but it paralyzes the government by excluding experienced individuals from accepting employment opportunities.
In addition, Turnbull called the bill establishing a police chief in each district "unconstitutional," as it mandates the Police Commissioner appoint the chiefs instead of the governor.

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