Overwhelming is the best descriptor which the League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands can use to express its disappointment in the Legislature's proposed budget for FY 2000.
Where else but in the Legislature of the Virgin Islands could the apparent uncontrolled financial crisis of the territory be addressed?
Once again the Virgin Islands Senate has abdicated its responsibility for financial oversight of the revenues of the territory by willfully ignoring its fiscal responsibility to meet, at very least, the financial performance standards set in the memorandum of Understanding between the governor and the secretary of the Interior. The importance of meeting the financial standards of the memorandum is self-evident and crucial.
The senators have relegated the responsibilities for expending the monies for Fiscal year 2000 to the governor and the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Sen. Lorraine Berry, chairwoman of the Legislature's Committee on Finance said as much in her radio broadcast on Nov. 6.
Sen David Jones is quoted in a local newspaper on Nov. 6 as saying, "This budget is a six-month budget. It is not designed to answer all the questions or solve all the problems, but it is a start."
Is this what Title I of the Virgin Islands Code requires of our legislature. The League of Women Voters does not interpret the law that way.
The chairwoman of the Committee on Finance is quoted in the same article, "The post auditor has recommended many revenue enhancement proposals. These proposals will supplement the revenues needed to fund this budget until the end of the fiscal year.
The difference between the revenues proposed in the executive budget of $432.1 million and the legislature's proposed appropriation level of $450.2 million is $18.1 millions.
Over the first week of November a variety of reports were attributed to the post auditor. The first was that revenue projections estimated by the executive brand for FY 2000 were overstated by at least $135 million and perhaps as much as $160 million.
A few days later he estimated a possible $73 million from the Omnibus Bill and $96 million from loans; a surplus for FY 2000 appeared.
Evidently the Omnibus Bill did include some of the post auditor's recommended revenue initiatives and measures for savings, but there appears to be a lack of specifics as to the respective dollar amounts.
Regrettably the League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands must take issue with Sen. Berry. No one disputes the fact that the government of the Virgin Islands finds itself in an untenable fiscal morass, but to say, "We simply could not live with a $432 million budget this year," suggests an unwillingness to grapple with the real problem and a lack of appreciation for the immediate gravity of the of the fiscal crisis by either the chairwoman of the Finance Committee or her colleagues.
Authority must be granted to the executive to reduce expenses and increase cash flow significantly. It appears that the Legislature doesn't care to perform this duty. The territory can no longer afford the luxury of a waiting period.


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