Home News Local news Sen. Berry Says Allotment Bill Would Create Budget Shortfall

Sen. Berry Says Allotment Bill Would Create Budget Shortfall


Jan. 4, 2006– Senate President Lorraine Berry is strongly objecting to a recently passed bill which mandates each senator receive 2 percent of the Legislature's total operating budget.
The new law would do away with the time-honored tradition of majority senators receiving the lion's share of the budget allotments.
The new legislation, sponsored by Sen. Louis Hill, was passed Dec. 15 in the Senate's last session of 2005. It evens out the budget distribution, except in the case of Senate officers and committee chairs.
Legislatures are, more often than not, notoriously secretive about their budget allotments. The allotments must cover staff salaries, office supplies and equipment, travel and any other expense, such as funding extra research.
Berry wrote Hill that the new law would create "a shortfall in excess of $700,000 for other operations of this first branch of government." She said the new law would force her to "take drastic and severe actions to keep this institution solvent."
She said that she would, as mandated by the new law, give each senator a base allotment of $338,000 of the Legislature's $16.9 million budget on Jan. 1. The allotments are given in quarterly installments.
Berry does not include any other figures in her letter to substantiate her solvency claims.
Hill said Wednesday, "Sen. Berry has never released the Legislature budget breakdowns, so we are unable to make any determination on whether this is true. The first thing she has to do is to release the FY 2005 and FY 2006 budgets with the breakdowns so we can see what it is she is saying. If what she is saying is true, then we should amend the bill to reflect a figure that is appropriate to the overall budget. She has never released to the senators, or to the public, the breakdowns. Once we have that, we can go from there."
Senate Minority Leader Roosevelt David, in essence, agreed with Hill.
"It would be premature for me to commit myself to anything [in support of a repeal]," he said, "until I see some figures that would convince me it should be amended. If this is going to create a problem, we should compromise for something everybody could live with."
Berry has yet to reveal the budget allotments for senators of the 26th Legislature.
One of the hallmarks of Berry's 22 years in the Senate has been her call for transparency in government, and she has issued subpoenas to officials who don't turn up with the information she requests.
The Source has been trying to get the individual senators' budget allotments from Berry for a year. (See Budget Allotments Keep Senate in Turmoil.)
At the December Senate session, however, in response to legislation proposed by Sen. Craig Barshinger, Berry said the press would get the information it has been requesting before the end of the year. "We just submitted all the raises," she said, "and they'll get that, so all who want to know what is going on, they'll find out."
The Source still has not received that information.
Berry was not available for comment Wednesday.
Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd, president of the 24th Legislature, avoided ever producing senators' allotment figures for the body's full two years, though he was regularly queried by the media.
Hill's legislation passed on a thin eight-to-seven margin. Voting with him were his six minority colleagues, with majority Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson providing the deciding eighth vote. One of Nelson's strong objectives in his campaign slate was equal budgets for all Senate members.
The senate meets in Committee of the Whole on Jan. 11 to consider recommendations from the Government Employees System board to the new GERS legislation. A full Senate session will follow on Jan. 12. Both meetings are in the Earl B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas.

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