The V.I. Legislature voted to create a new fund – which it intends to appropriate money to and then dish out to area nonprofit organizations as it sees fit – during session Tuesday. The measure, sponsored by many senators, was special ordered onto the session agenda at the end of a long day of discussion of the Limetree Bay oil concession and then approved unanimously without debate or a reading of the bill.
Explaining the move after the vote, Senate President Neville James said it creates a fund called the "Legislative Community Reinvestment Initiative."
"On an annual basis we will be appropriating a designated amount of money from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund, and the Legislature will have in effect an in-house miscellaneous section to deal with nonprofits and other entities that we want to support, instead of siphoning off from the nonprofits the governor sends down in the miscellaneous section," James said.
"We are showing maturity and growth as an institution and it is time the institution had some say, let me say more say, in how we spend those funds," James continued.
The Internal Revenue Matching Fund consists of federal alcohol excise tax revenues remitted to the territory in relation to its rum industry, net of large subsidies to the rum manufacturers, debt financing and deductions for other purposes.
Money was apparently appropriated for this fund before its creation, in September, when the Legislature approved an amendment from Sen. Kurt Vialet to the government’s main budget bill, adding a miscellaneous $1.5 million line item appropriation entitled "Legislative Community Reinvestment Initiative," which was approved without discussion.
That appropriation stands in contrast to the Legislature’s decision to gut modest pension reform legislation in September over the inability to find $2 million. The Senate removed a proposed $65,000 cap on government employee income subject to employer and employee pension contributions over the $2 million needed to pay the employer share.
Gov. Kenneth Mapp had formally asked the Legislature to put off the change for this year due to budget constraints. GERS is projected to become insolvent in around eight years and cease paying full pensions, unless there is a major infusion of cash or pension contributions increase to match pension payments. (See Related Links below)
The Senate also approved Tuesday the nomination of attorney Henry Smock for another term as a member of the University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees. Smock has served on the board for 15 years.
And it approved St. John businessman Harith Wickrema as a member of the V.I. Waste Management Authority.