Home News Local news Turnbull Has Plans to Spend 'Found Money'

Turnbull Has Plans to Spend 'Found Money'


Sept. 23, 2005—Little time was spent debating the 26 appropriations bills which came up for vote at the Senate's full session Friday. Instead, much of the discussion centered on a letter circulated by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull during the meeting which said more than $60 million in unanticipated revenues had been collected for fiscal year 2005. Turnbull sent an appropriations wish list with the letter and asked for a special session to be held next Friday to review the request.
"I anticipated there would be a surplus at the end of this year," Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said. "I've been saying it for months – but no one would listen to me. Everybody kept saying that we're appropriating money for things that we don't have the funds for, calling it phantom money. Now here it is, and suddenly everyone's listening."
Jn Baptiste talked about information he had previously received from the Finance Department showing there would be a surplus. "Projected revenues for this year came out at $563.1 million. By July 31, we were $14.9 over that. Add in the next two months and you've got your $60 million." Jn Baptiste said.
The Source reviewed documents which broke down the sources from which the revenues derived. While senators speculated most of it must come from corporate taxes due the government from Hovensa, Jn Baptiste said the refinery hasn't begun paying their debt yet.
Instead, 81 percent of the revenues come from corporate income taxes. But it is most likely that the windfall did come from the refinery's increased revenues due to skyrocketing fuel prices. Other additional revenues came from excise, stamp, and tire tax collections, as well as from various fines and penalties, the documents revealed.
Jn Baptiste, along with Sen. Usie R. Richards, also said there should be much more than $60 million in extra revenues. "It's most likely up around $85 million or $90 million," Baptiste said.
"This proves that the executive branch has abused the Legislature and the citizens of the V.I. by giving a misrepresentation of the financial state of the territory," Richards said.
Despite these concerns, senators did agree that much of the money could be used to help chip away at the almost $1 billion debt owed by the government to the Government Employees Retirement System, as well as the $400 million in retroactive pay owed to public sector employees throughout the V.I.
But Turnbull had other things in mind. Attached to Turnbull's letter was a bill designating the funds to various departments and agencies before the end of September. It was in the letter that Turnbull requested a special session be called to deal with the appropriations.
However, since senators had already planned a Legislative session for Monday to discuss other appropriations bills, Senate President Lorraine L.Berry asked Turnbull to send his bill down then, and cancel the special session. When contacted Friday evening about the status of the session, Berry said she had not as yet heard from Turnbull. Until she does, the special session is still on, she said.
After looking through Turnbull's supplemental budget bill, Berry expressed some concerns about his appropriations—in particular, $4.4 million to be given to Bearing Point USVI LLC for the continuation of their property re-valuation project. "I was told that we had already given them all the money we needed to," Berry said. "Now they want more?"
Turnbull's bill also provides:
–$17.2 million to the Education Department for books, instructional materials, and other supplies, as wells as V.I. cultural education programs and technology equipment.
–$5 million to the Education Department for ongoing maintenance of public schools and repairs to the food storage warehouse.
–$5.8 million to the Health Department for its Medical Assistance Program to fund current and prior year obligations and to assist in creating quality control and front-end investigation programs.
— $6.3 million to the Government Employees Retirement System to address unfunded mandates related to various early retirement program as presented by our pension fund administrator.
–$12 million to the Office of Management and Budget for salary increases of classified employees in various department and agencies.
–$3 million to Public Works to repair and maintain the territorial roadways.
—$5 million to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to purchase books, computers and other equipment and supplies for the public libraries as well us repairs of areas critical to film preservation and display of library resources.
–$3 million to fund outstanding utility bills of department and agencies with the Water and Power Authority.
–$1 million to the Motor Vehicle Bureau for the purchase of equipment and supplies and the general maintenance of its various facilities.
–$1 million to the Department of Property and Procurement to offset difference in purchase and redemption prices of gasoline coupons.
–$2 million to the V. I. Waste Management Authority for operating expenses
–$1.2 million for the molasses subsidy.
–$2.3 million for FMS upgrade and a third party fiduciary.
–$500,000 for the Micro-Loan Program.
–$431,951 to the Justice Department to pay various contracts for services rendered.
Berry expressed concern about payment of the contracts which were entered into in violation of the V.I. Code.
In his letter to Berry, Turnbull asked the Legislature to overlook the code violation, suggesting the senators instead consider that "the vendors provided their services in good faith and should be compensated accordingly."
All senators were present at Friday's meeting.

Back Talk

Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here