In her annual address Tuesday, Delegate Donna Christian Christensen reviewed her 1999 accomplishments, outlined an ambitious agenda for the new year and threw her hat into the ring for a third term.
"Yes, I am running for another term," Christensen said after outlining a range of initiatives aimed at bringing more than $500 million in federal funding into the territory over the next five years.
"By our calculation — and we are still counting, in fiscal year 1999 more than $150 million came to the territory," she said. "The package for fiscal year 2001 and beyond which we propose would add up to $500 million or more, hopefully over a period not to exceed five years."
Regardless of who may run against her for delegate, Christensen said, the fate of her funding proposals will likely hinge on who wins the presidency in November. A supporter of Vice President Al Gore, she said that a Democratic victory will help her efforts, while a Republican win wouldn’t bode well for the territory.
The track record of Republican administrations suggest a GOP win "wouldn’t be the best for the territory," she said. "Either Democrat (Gore or Sen. Bill Bradley) would be okay."
As her own main goals for the coming year, she cited, among others:
– Assisting Gov. Charles Turnbull’s efforts to have the Federal Emergency Management Agency forgive the territory’s $200 million debt.
– Requesting a reimbursement from the federal government on the $12 million the territory pays out each year for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
– Continuing work to have the federal government extend empowerment zone-economic community designation to the territory.
– Working with the Gasoline Excise Tax Commission to seek the return of taxes that may be due the territory.
– Seeking a special appropriation for money owed to territorial hospitals by Medicaid.
– Assisting the V.I. Port Authority in securing funds to complete the St. Croix airport runway extension and the Enighed Pond project on St. John.
Reviewing 1999, Christensen pointed to success in having the excise tax cap on V.I. rum lifted. The move, retroactive to July 1999, extends to December 2001 and will bring in an additional $30 million to $34 million to the territory, she said.
"While it is still not all we asked for, it does give us additional time to work toward having the entire cap lifted permanently," she said.
She also cited the expanding of duty-free benefits to manufacturers of jewelry, primarily on St. Croix. She said three new watch and jewelry manufacturing operations are to open on the Big Island.
In the territory's watch industry heyday a decade ago, she said, 1,000 to 1,200 people were employed in the field locally. That number is down to 200 to 300, she said, but this could double, once the new companies start up.
Finally, Christensen, a physician and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’s Health Braintrust, noted her efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the territory and win funding for the Children’s Health Insurance program. Beginning last October until 2002, the Virgin Islands will receive $900,000 a year to cover the needs of children whose parents cannot afford private health insurance but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.


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