Plaskett Fights Fed Funding Cuts

V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett was able to defeat an amendment on the House Floor that threatened to reduce federal highway funding for the USVI and Guam, and helped persuade D.C. not to list the USVI as a tax haven, according to her office.

An amendment to the federal DRIVE Act proposed by Samoa Delegate to Congress Auma Amata Coleman Radewagen and Northern Mariana Islands Delegate to Congress Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan would have cut funding. The Radewagen-Sablan amendment proposed to change the current formula for funding under the Territorial Highway Program, requiring the U.S. secretary of transportation to allocate program funds to the territories according to specific, quantifiable measures unique to each of the territories.

“Had this amendment been successful it would have potentially hurt the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam by taking already minimal funds away from these two territories under the Territorial Highway Program. My office was able to galvanize support from members on both sides of the aisle to defeat this last minute amendment,” Plaskett said in a statement.

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“The funding provided in the Transportation bill is yet another example of this Congress’ inability to address the real needs of all the U.S. territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose economies have not recovered and require additional support. While I certainly recognize and empathize with the frustrations of some of my colleagues from the territories, I believe it is a larger example of how — in the circumstances — the limited funding within this bill has created an environment where we are literally fighting over scraps. The proposed funding in the bill barely provides any increase to the historically low allocation for the Territorial Highway Program," Plaskett said, adding that she hopes the delegates representing the U.S. territories can work together and not pit one territory against the other.

The Radewagen-Sablan amendment was defeated by a vote of 113-310.

Plaskett also fought back against a local Washington D.C. action that threatened the territory’s economic development tax programs, according to her office. A provision in D.C.’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget would have listed the USVI as one of 39 countries recognized by the local D.C. government as tax havens.

“This amendment to the D.C. budget threatens the territory’s hard-earned reputation as being well regulated and compliant with U.S. federal tax law and authorities, and was a measure that could potentially infringe on our tax incentive programs and impede our economic growth," Plaskett said in a statement. "Although at first glance this was merely a measure in the District of Columbia’s legislature, the fact that D.C.’s budget is approved and adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives would have been tacit support of Congress to DC’s adverse designation of the Virgin Islands.”

After working with the ambassadors of Barbados and Dominica, and the V.I. Chamber of Commerce, Plaskett worked with members of Congress and D.C. City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson ultimately getting him to agree to repeal the list through emergency legislation at an upcoming District of Columbia legislative hearing, according to Plaskett’s office.

Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the U.S. Virgin Islands were among the Caribbean countries named in the list.

The provision was repealed by way of an amendment at a Nov. 3 D.C. City Council meeting.

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