Sept. 20, 2001 – Three senators are on record as saying they think the governor's Fiscal Year 2002 budget needs to be reworked in light of the terrorists attacks on the mainland and the resulting effect on tourism and, thus, the Virgin Islands economy.
The whole administrative budget package is being considered by the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. Whatever is approved is to go before the Rules Committee on Saturday, and whatever is approved there is scheduled to be put to a final vote by the full Senate on Monday and Tuesday.
In recent days, Sens. Lorraine Berry and Emmett Hansen II have written separately to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull asking him to redo his FY 2002 revenue projections, which envision a healthy V.I. economy and a continuation of the income-tax "windfall" the governor and his fiscal aides announced in June for FY 2001. Sen. Vargrave Richards has said airline cutbacks make a total review of the budget essential.
(In addition, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen said on Wednesday that she intends to submit proposals to revise the budget, including making sure all money in the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund goes for advertising. (See "Hansen: Bailout could subsidize flights to V.I.")
Berry urged the governor to call a meeting of executive officials, the legislative branch and his national financial advisers to go over the FY 2002 budget before the full Senate considers it next week. "I suggest you confer soon … about the impact on our economy stemming from national anxiety over air travel," Berry wrote the governor. In a release, Berry noted that she had urged the governor to the same effect in a personal conversation shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Hansen said on Tuesday that he was not urging an executive/ legislative meeting. "Whatever formula the governor … deems necessary to readdress the budget will do," he said, adding that whatever the Legislature sends him, "he will have to implement and line-item veto."
The governor "needs to look at the individual department spending," Hansen said. "The Tourism Department is chock full of nonclassified positions."
Hansen said he has been working with the Finance Committee, "going from 10 a.m. right through 1 a.m." in recent days. "We need to put more money toward revenue-generating departments," he said.
Sen. Vargrave Richards called on Monday for a review of the proposed budget. Cutbacks by the airlines are "going to have a major impact on the territory," he said. "We need to look at every single capital project on the table and see how we can get each one started. It's necessary we get these projects going — like the St. Croix boardwalk for one — to offset the impact on tourism."
Richards added, "The Legislature is going to have to revisit the present budget in planning for 2002, with the hotels down about 10 percent now and probably worse by the beginning of season."


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here