Aug. 8, 2001 – Cautioning senators that "we must ensure we have sufficient funds … for government employees' negotiated salary step increases," Gov. Charles W. Turnbull announced late Tuesday night that he had vetoed 23 items in the massive supplemental appropriations bill sent him by the Legislature last month.
In a cover letter to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Turnbull noted that he had approved many of the 114 sections of the mammoth spending plan for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. However, he wrote, "I remind the Legislature that we cannot return to the path of fiscal irresponsibility … We must not venture down the old path of overspending and bloated public payrolls."
Turnbull said he took "particular pleasure" in approving a section which raises the minimum salary of government employees to $15,000 from the current level of $10,000.
In five pages of commentary outlining his objections to the legislation, the governor told Liburd that "while I consider all the items to be of great importance, there are other items of even greater importance to the health and welfare of the residents of the community for which we will have to look for additional funding … We must look at the greater financial picture, and set our priorities in order."
What got cut
Therefore, Turnbull concluded, "some other well-intentioned initiatives must take a back seat." Among those he vetoed:
– $6 million to be reprogrammed from the unused portion of the $15 million bond proceeds to fund a retirement incentive plan to the General Fund as working capital. The governor said the money should be used to pay prior years' bills.
– $100,000 to repair the refrigeration system at the Juan Luis Hospital. Turnbull said the system already has been repaired, and any capital project at the hospital can be funded from the Health Revolving Fund.
– Two appropriations — one of $150,000 and one for $700,000 — for potable water lines on St. Croix. Turnbull said both should be the responsibility of the Water and Power Authority.
– $100,000 to the V.I. Tennis Association for travel, equipment and supplies.
– $250,000 to the St. Croix Motor Sports Complex Caribbean Racing Association for bleachers and other improvements.
– $100,000 to the V.I. Track and Field Federation.
– $150,000 to the St. Croix Community Foundation to replace the roof of the Alexander Theater, one of the structures the foundation plans to rehabilitate in Times Square, Christiansted.
– Four appropriations from the Industrial Development Fund. Turnbull said cash in the fund should be made available to the newly named Economic Development Authority.
– The enabling legislation to bring video lottery gaming to the territory. [See separate story, "Governor vetoes video lottery again".]
The supplemental appropriations bill was the second huge spending measure Turnbull had sent to the Senate this year. The first came in May, after the Internal Revenue Bureau director, Louis Willis, announced a projected $100 million windfall in tax revenues.
Appropriations attached by senators to the current bill raised the governor's proposed $47.2 million in additional spending to $64.5 million, which the governor has now pared down by nearly $8.9 million with his vetoes.
What got approved
Among the items approved by the governor:
– $16 million for overdue water and power bills owed to WAPA, with the promise of another $9 million to be paid by the end of this year. The governor said this would "bring us current with WAPA and place WAPA in a favorable cash position" to go to the bond market.
– $2.5 million for a water production plant and substation on St. John.
– $2 million to the V.I. Housing Authority as reimbursement for the Estate Nazareth disaster shelter housing set up for victims of Hurricane Marilyn.
– $5.3 million for local matching funds for disaster assistance.
– $1 million to the Public Works Department for a public cemetery on St. Thomas.
– $2.3 million for Phase 11 of the Savan Gut Project on St. Thomas.
– $1.3 million for the Nadir Bridge Flood Control Project.
– $1 million to the Police Department for Hurricane Marilyn overtime pay, for $100,000 to go into the Crime Information Fund as a reward for information leading to the location of Office Wendell Williams, and for personnel purposes.
– $500,000 to the Education Department for the school lunch program.
– $660,000 to the Agriculture Department including $150,000 for the drought relief fund, $75,000 each for the Humane Society of St. Thomas and St. Croix Animal Shelter, and $10,000 for the Animal Care Center of St. John. The shelters have not been paid for more than two years for public pickup and impounding services.
– $2.8 million for Finance Department renovations.
– $1 million for construction of a central fire station on St. Thomas.
– $1 million to begin negotiations for acquisition of Magens Bay watershed land from the Homer Wheaton Estate.
The governor also approved a bill that, among other things:
– Requires that project managers notify persons eligible for affordable housing of vacancies within 90 days after eligibility determination is made. "Such a program benefits the territory by enfranchising these individuals and expanding our tax base," Turnbull said.
– Authorizes the governor to negotiation with The Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) for the use of desalination and electrical generating facilities at the now-closed alumina plant on St. Croix.
– Reverses earlier action reducing the unemployment tax rate.
– Repeals earlier authorization for the government to consolidate all its three housing agencies – the V.I. Housing Authority, the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation and the Housing Finance Authority. The authorization was part of the 2001 Omnibus Act passed by the 23rd Legislature in its final hours last December and signed into law by the governor in February.


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