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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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V.I. Government Gets More Borrowing Leeway

The Senate Committee on Appropriations and Budget Wednesday approved legislation to allow the V.I. government to borrow more money for a longer period of time.
Part of the bill was an amendment increasing the number of years for which the government is authorized to borrow to cover projected shortfalls.
Debra Gottlieb, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said a bond closing on July 15 gave the government $150 million for fiscal year 2010, and the funds allowed the government to pay down $200 million of a then-existing line of credit.
However, there was no mention of what would be done if economic hardships continued into 2011. Under this amendment, Gottlieb said, they will be able to draw $125 million for fiscal year 2011.
The bill also allowed for additional funds to be allocated to the Department of Health to provide low-income families with quality health care.
Gottlieb explained that the federal government is also providing funds, but the territory is required to provide $1.3 million in matching funds. The move increases the department’s fiscal year 2010 appropriations from $34 million to $36 million.
The bill allows for an appropriation of $3.2 million from both the Union Arbitration Award and Government Employees Increment funds for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to pay for negotiated salary increases for several law enforcement and corrections officers’ unions.
Senators heard from Law Enforcement Supervisors Union Chapter President Lt. Joseph Gumbs who expressed frustration at the process. He said his organization negotiated a contract with the government in March, which was signed in June.
Yet, the sergeants, lieutenants and captains in his union have yet to receive a pay raise. He said he knows of officers who are making more than their supervisors, which is affecting morale.
Senators said they understood his frustration, but they had to go through a process, which isn’t always fast.
The bill also opens the field of lending institutions the Public Finance Authority can solicit letters of credit from to include those not federally insured.
The government needs the funds in order to pay money owed to government employees and retirees, and Dowe explained that this gives officials a wider selection.
Finally, the bill extended funds to pay for the transition as the Department of Education moves from one third-party fiduciary to another.
Sens. Louis Patrick Hill, Wayne A.G. James, Terrance “Positive” Nelson, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Simeon Sprauve and Carlton “Ital” Dowe voted in the affirmative for the bill. Sen. Craig Barshinger was absent.

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