Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp on Monday vetoed a bill that he called an "ill-conceived" measure that would hamper economic growth.
The bill, No. 31-0292, would have prevented nonresidents hired by or owning a company receiving benefits from the Economic Development Commission from achieving residency status during their period of employment or ownership.
In a letter to Senate President Neville James, Mapp underscored that the measure as drafted would have a devastating effect on the government’s ability to attract sound investment and grow the economy of the territory.
“As you are aware, this bill was special ordered to the floor without any committee hearings or any input from the public, the EDC Commission or the EDC beneficiaries who will be impacted,” the governor wrote in his letter to James. “If enacted into law, this bill will reverse the government’s gains for economic recovery and the progress achieved over the span of several administrations, with the U.S. Department of Treasury … This measure is, quite simply, inconsistent with the government’s position on residency for EDC compliance purposes which was submitted to the U.S. Department of Treasury.”
The governor said the proposed law as written, would have an especially negative impact on Virgin Islanders living outside the territory who may want to return home to work for or own an EDC company.
“This bill basically provides that if you are not a Virgin Islands resident at the time of hire or ownership of an EDC company, you could never attain such a status or ever be considered a Virgin Islands resident while employed with or owning such an entity during the benefit period," the governor continued. In short, a Virgin Islander living in New York as a resident of New York, and who returns home to work for or own a beneficiary company, could never be considered a Virgin Islands resident hired for purposes of the residency requirement as long as he or she is employed by or owns that beneficiary entity."
Mapp said he was willing to work with senators in order to “tackle the concerns the legislation appears to address,” but that it should be part of a more comprehensive reform process, and such a discussion should include private sector partners and the Economic Development Commission.
"We can work in a sensible manner to ensure that beneficiary and concession agreement packages provide mutual benefits for both the territory and the potential investors," the governor said.
Mapp added that the Government of the Virgin Islands should never take any action or adopt any policy discouraging Virgin Islanders living abroad from returning home to aid in the development of the territory.
"The language contained in this bill and the barrier it will place on other Virgin Islanders who may want to return home to start or work for an EDC company is unwarranted," Mapp said. "This bill, as written, does a horrible job if it is intended to provide any economic gain for the people of the Virgin Islands."