Feb. 27, 2006 – Delegate Donna M. Christensen will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources oversight hearing Wednesday on her bill to create a chief financial officer for the territory.
The controversial bill unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives last March, but has not yet been scheduled for a Senate vote.
The bill has been strenuously opposed by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who is also scheduled to testify Wednesday. However, he is slated to talk about the economic status of the territory. Turnbull has called the measure a "return to colonialism."
Christensen has countered that the desperate shape of the V.I. finances and the government's growing debt smack more of Colonialism than her bill does. (See "CFO Bill Moving Earlier, Faster Through This Congress.")
Government House spokeswoman Rina Jacobs Roebuck said Monday morning, "The governor will testify about the bill if the issue comes up. If it does, he will be prepared to speak on it."
The purpose of the hearing is to receive testimony regarding the state of the economies and fiscal affairs in the territories of Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Governors and/or congressional representatives of each of the territories have been invited to speak, according to the committee website.
Christensen said in a recent release, "This is an opportunity to inform the committee of the importance of this legislation to the people of the Virgin Islands.
"While the current administration has made some progress toward fiscal discipline," Christensen said, "there are still serious problems, as evidenced in education, justice and housing that continue to occur because of the lack of a fully transparent financial manage system that is networked and integrated, and that is overseen by an independent chief financial officer."
It was not possible to reach the delegate for comment Monday morning.
Officially known as the Virgin Islands Fiscal Accountability Act, the bill calls for the CFO to serve for five years and also for the establishment of a comprehensive financial management system for the territory.
Turnbull has vehemently disagreed with the proposal since Christensen first proposed it in 2003. This is not the first time that Turnbull has testified about the proposed legislation.
In June 2004, prior to the House's vote of approval, then Senate President David Jones and Turnbull testified before the House Committee on Resources.
Jones, like most members of the 25th Legislature, has adamantly opposed the legislation. Twelve senators voted for a resolution introduced by Sen. Emmett Hansen II in December 2004 condemning the delegate's action.
Christensen appears to have the support of most Virgin Islanders. Running partially on her advocacy of the bill in the 2004 elections, she managed to win re-election with a landslide.
Ninety percent of Source readers who responded to an online questionnaire produced by the Source said the federal government had to step in to help the Virgin Islands get control of its finances
Also listed on the committee's Web site as testifying:
– Madeleine Bordallo, Guam congresswoman.
– Eni Faleomavaega, Samoa congressman.
– Felix Camacho, Guam governor.
– Togiola Tulafono, Samoa governor.
– Pedro Tenorio, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands governor.
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