Gov. John deJongh Jr. was notified the Legislature may act to restore budget levels for the Governor’s Office during its next session in November, deJongh said in a statement Friday.
The V.I. Legislature voted to cut the budget of the Office of the Governor by three-quarters for fiscal year 2015, and then voted to change existing V.I. law so that outgoing administrations may only spend 25 percent of the executive budget in a transition year, during session on Oct.1.
When Sen. Craig Barshinger proposed the first measure, which cuts the line item for the Office of the Governor from $9 million to $2.25 million for FY15, he read a series of "whereas" passages, laying out a series of grievances against the governor, concerning the need to see cell phone records, gasoline receipts, encumbrances on the St. John Capital Improvement Fund and other complaints against the administration.
"It is limiting his budget so he cannot overspend the budget of the next governor," Barshinger said. (See Related Links below)
The measure cuts the total annual budget, so by itself Barshinger’s proposal has the effect of funding the deJongh administration until January, then leave the executive office entirely unfunded for the rest of the year, after deJongh’s departure.
The Legislature also approved an amendment from Graham forbidding the executive branch from spending more than 25 percent of the executive budget during a year in which an administration transfer occurs.
DeJongh said he received correspondence from Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone Thursday afternoon indicating the Legislature intended to restore the budget levels for the Office of the Governor at the next session scheduled for mid-November. He said Malone wrote that, “The 30th Legislature will during our next scheduled session address, among other items, the following: restoration of the full year appropriation for the Office of the Governor.”
According to deJongh, Malone said the Senate would increase the 25 percent in Graham’s amendment to 27 percent. However, before that adjustment can be made the Senate must gather the votes necessary to override the governor’s veto. De Jongh vetoed legislation that would set limits on what an outgoing administration can spend during the first quarter of the fiscal year.
DeJongh poked the Legislature in his veto explanation, saying the "continuous attempts by the Legislature, such as here, to manage and sit in the shoes of the administration, are lamentable. This amendment is not only a violation of separation of powers; it will adversely affect the continuity of government and place an undue hardship in the government’s ability to contract for essential services on behalf of the people.”
“The law requires that the funds for contracts be encumbered prior to entering into contracts,” he wrote. “Permitting agencies to encumber only sufficient funds for 25 percent of their contracts will prevent the executive branch from entering into contracts at all, thus crippling the normal functions of government. I will not stand by and permit your woefully misguided efforts to strike out at me to result in suffering for the people I was twice elected to represent.”
DeJongh said he hopes the Senate would not override his veto, saying the consequences of not having contractual relationships will put too many services at risk.
“We have obligations that range of from off-island residential care on behalf of families to rental payments to local landlords to trying to combine the eligibility apparatus, to name a few, these will all be affected by an override of my veto which would reinstate the limitation on encumbrance of funds in the first quarter of the fiscal year,” he said.