Sept. 1, 2005 — Gov. Charles W. Turnbull on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have amended the Low Income Housing Act, citing concerns that the amendments would reduce V.I. government revenues.
The bill, approved by the Senate's Committee of the Whole on Aug. 12, sought to:
— Provide an exemption for low-income housing residents on recording fees from documents that must be filed when new affordable housing units are being built;
— Pass on to subcontractors any tax benefits that go to the developers of low-income housing units;
— Eliminate some taxes on developers and housing residents if and when they convert affordable housing rental units to home ownership; and
— Allow additional tax exemptions on property taxes for residents who are considered low income.
In a letter to Senate President Lorraine Berry, Turnbull said that while he is in favor of low-income housing developments for V.I. residents, he doesn't see how granting additional tax benefits to subcontractors will "transcend to savings for homeowners."
"Also, by giving away additional tax exemptions, we will be depleting revenues needed for other government services," Turnbull said.
Turnbull added that any decrease in revenues would be a critical loss to the Virgin Islands, especially in light of the fact that the federal government is cutting many of its programs, and funds, to the territory.
The governor did, however, approve legislation which seeks to take care of outstanding payments owed to the Anne Carlsen Center for Children. The government entered into a contract with the center back in July 2002, to provide care for three special-needs children from the territory. (See "Special Needs Care Ends, Government Isn't Paying".) The bill also includes measures to streamline the territory's tint law and clarify certain provisions regarding the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and Physician's programs.
A bill designed to pay off debt incurred by the government to vendors who provided services through the Department of Property and Procurement was also approved, despite concerns raised by some senators. (See "Senate Passes Low-Income Housing, Block Grants, Vendor Bills".) The three vendors who will be receiving payments are V.I. Employee Benefit Consultants, Aon Consulting, and Central Air.
Turnbull also approved legislation to shift around money for projects under the $1.9 million Community Development Block Grant in order to provide extra funds for the homeless, the revamping of recreational facilities on St. Croix, and the restoration of buildings for the American Legion. Grant money is also designated to organizations such as the V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled, the Family Resource Center, Workable Inc., and Kidscope for the development of programs and facilities for disabled persons. The grant also provides funds for various after-school programs across the territory.
Turnbull also approved bills to establish an FM microwave link between the Legislative building and Blue Mountain on St. Croix and another to create two government access channels for the territory to provide gavel-to-gavel Senate coverage for V.I. residents.
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