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Governor Says No to Additional Spending, Yes to Removing Junk Food from Schools and Honoring Edith Woods

Aug. 8, 2007 — Gov. John deJongh Jr. put his veto pen to work Tuesday, cutting out several sections of a appropriation-heavy funding bill recently passed by the Senate during a session held late last month.
In its original form, the bill sought to distribute about $1.7 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to various community organizations, projects and programs in both districts. However, senators spent much time during last month's session attaching amendments to the bill, appropriating an additional $1.5 million from the General Fund for several school repairs, youth sporting events and other community programs. .
While deJongh signed the CDBG sections of the bill into law Tuesday, he also vetoed several of the amendments, saying that the General Fund could not support the additional appropriations during fiscal year 2007.
"I do not challenge the 27th Legislature's determinations that the proposals set forth in the vetoed sections contain worthy objectives," deJongh wrote in a letter to Senate President Usie R. Richards. "However, sound fiscal management policies dictate that I veto these items at this time."
Over the past few months, deJongh and members of his financial team have stressed that revenue projections for FY 2007 have fallen short of expectations, resulting in a $46.5 million cash shortfall. Decreased collections have also forced the administration to implement other fiscal policy measures, such as an across-the-board budget cut of 2 percent for all departments and agencies during the current fiscal year.
A few sections of the bill that implement new policy changes were also vetoed by deJongh on Tuesday, including an amendment setting up a six-month window for residents to take care of outstanding gross receipts taxes without having to pay the corresponding interest and penalty costs.
Not all policy and funding sections were cut, however. DeJongh signed into law parts of the bill that:
— make changes and corrections to another CDBG bill recently signed into law that redirects money from previously approved projects to the Legislature and the V.I. Housing Finance Authority (See "Senate Majority Attaches Multiple Amendments to Block Grant Funding Bill");
— appropriates $400,000 to the Division of Personnel to compile data on how much is owed to retirees who left government service after 1989;
— limits the number of individuals needed to approved documents drafted during the upcoming Constitutional Convention to a two-thirds majority;
— allows individuals participating in the local Teacher Incentive Scholarship Program to enroll in and receive credit from any accredited college or university, instead of just the University of the Virgin Islands; and
— appropriates $500,000 to replace bleachers at St. Croix Central High School.
DeJongh also approved a bill regulating the sale of junk food and sugar-laden sodas in local public schools, and a resolution honoring the late Edith Laurencia deJongh Woods for her contributions to the V.I. community.
For a full listing of approved Community Development Block Grant projects (See "Senators Propose Supplementing Community Development Block Grant Program with $1.9 Million").

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