Aug. 10, 2001 – The 24th Legislature has managed to inflate its $13 million budget by an additional $2.7 million so far this fiscal year. The minority bloc senators received $375,000 of that additional amount on Friday, or about one-seventh of the overall increase the Senate has voted itself. And that was before withholding.
The five minority senators don't exactly see this as a "windfall" — one of the lawmakers' favorite expressions since June 11, when Gov. Charles W. Turnbull announced an Internal Revenue Bureau projection of $100 million in unanticipated tax collections this year.
Sen. Vargrave Richards said Friday afternoon that each minority senator's $75,000 allotment, added to their earlier allotments for the year of $100,000 apiece, had an "unprecedented caveat."
"It includes fringe benefits," he said, referring to what is withheld from pay in tax and other deductions.
Richards, who was president of the 23rd Legislature, said benefits are traditionally absorbed by the administration. Since that isn't the case now, he said, the $75,000 allocated to each minority senator "really means about $55,000 to $60,000 by the time vacation and taxes are taken out." He added, wryly, "So, the beat goes on. It's another unfair tactic."
Richards said a cover letter to the minority members from Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd stated that if there is a need for additional staffing, the fringe benefits will be deducted from their accounts. "Frankly, I'll use the money for my present staff, who have taken significant reductions in pay," he said.
Two minority senators are committee chairs — Richards of Youth and Human Services and Douglas Canton Jr. of Health and Hospitals. There had been an anticipation that additional funding also would be forthcoming for these two committees. However, Richards commented Friday, "I guess that comes out of the $75,000."
The Legislature's original $13 million budget for Fiscal Year 2001 represented a cut of $1 million from FY 2000. The Senate sought to undo the cut early this year by appropriating an additional $1 million for itself. Turnbull didn't see it that way and vetoed the measure, telling the lawmakers they should live within their means.
In a June 15 session called to appropriate the $100 million in additional projected tax revenues, Sen. Adelbert Bryan tacked on amendments allocating $1.5 million to the Legislature and $500,000 for repairs to the old territorial court building, which houses the Senate Post Audit section.
This time around, Turnbull approved the measure — plus an additional $700,000 in the supplemental appropriations bill he signed this week. The $700,000 appropriation is to "pay prior-year obligations from the unused portion of bond proceeds," according to the supplemental document.
The lopsided allotments doled out by the 24th Legislature majority bloc have been the subject of dispute since the body's inception. The Source sought unsuccessfully to obtain a listing of the majority senators' personal allotments. The minority senators allotments are documented at $100,000 each, which is believed to be about $150,000 or $200,000 less than their majority counterparts.
However, Liburd's office did provide the 24th Legislature members' staffing allotments earlier this year:
– Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd: 10 employees, $ 342,000
– Sen. Adelbert Bryan: 7 employees, $256,728
– Sen. Carlton Dowe: 8 employees, $240,000
– Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste: 8 employees, $232,500
– Sen. Norma Samuel: 5 employees, $169,000
– Sen. Celestino A. White Sr.: 5 employees, $169,000
– Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole: 5 employees, $167,000
– Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen: 6 employees, $164,000
– Sen. Roosevelt David: 5 employees, $94,932
– Sen. David Jones: 3 employees, $90,000
– Sen. Douglas Canton Jr.: 3 employees, $87,000
– Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg: 3 employees, $85,000
– Sen. Vargrave Richards: 3 employees, $77,500
– Sen. Lorraine Berry: 3 employees, $60,000
– Sen. Emmett Hansen II: 3 employees, $39,000
Baptiste, Bryan, Dowe, Liburd, Samuel, White, Cole, Hansen and Hansen II are majority bloc members. David, Jones, Canton, Richards and Berry are minority members.
Donastorg, who is unaligned, also received the additional $75,000 allotment.
Liburd's office also provide these figures on the Legislature's central staff appointments:
St. Thomas: 100 employees, $2,945,848
St. Croix: 59 employees, $1,655,000
Late Friday afternoon it was not possible to reach all minority senators. Jones, the minority leader, said he knew of the additional allotments but had not received written notification. Berry, David and Canton were not available. Neither was Liburd, but his chief of staff confirmed that the allotments were sent out Friday.


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