March 25, 2006 – Supplemental budget requests recently approved by the Legislature would help fund "urgent" projects and some of the government's legal obligations, according to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
The requests, part of a new appropriations bill approved by the Senate earlier this month, would fund among other things $15.8 million worth of salary increases for union and non-union classified government employees, $6.3 million for the Health Department, $5.9 million to the Justice Department for outstanding obligations and improvements to the Bureau of Corrections (including improvements at the Golden Grove prison facility on St. Croix and the Criminal Justice Complex on St. Thomas), $3.5 million to the Finance Department to replenish the Government Insurance Fund and to fund flood damage claims made by homeowners in the Mon Bijoux community on St. Croix, and $10 million to the Education Department to fund various programs until a third-party fiduciary is in place and federal funding can be released.
In a recent transmittal letter to Sen. Lorraine L. Berry, Turnbull said he had signed the bill into law, and urged senators to take action on other supplemental budget requests still pending in the Rules Committee – including a $3 million appropriation for salary increases for non-classified exempt government employees (See "Senate Approves 'New' Appropriation Bill").
Turnbull said he had also signed into law four bills:
–enacting education and safety regulations for recreational vessels.
–granting the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority a 60-day extension to finalize a power purchase agreement with Innoventor Technologies, the company recently selected by WAPA to be the small-power provider for St. Croix (See "Senate Approves Extension for WAPA-Innoventor Contract").
–declaring May 5 as "Paws for a Cause Day" in recognition and observance of the passage of an animal anti-cruelty bill in the Virgin Islands.
–honoring and commending Trevor Nicholas "Nick" Friday for his contribution to calypso music and naming the road from the Red Hook Ferry terminal to the Estate Nadir intersection "Trevor Nicholas 'Nick' Friday Memorial Drive."
Turnbull further acknowledged a resolution honoring and commending 2005 Carnival Queen Kmisha-Victoria Counts for her contributions to the Virgin Islands community.
A resolution petitioning Congress to amend the Organic Act to lower the number of voters required for an initiative to take effect did not receive support from Turnbull, however, and he wrote in his letter that "members of Congress have other things to attend to than to continually be requested to amend our local Revised Organic Act each time some segment of our community desires a change."
Turnbull added that Congress had given the V.I. Government the authority to draft its own constitution, and that senators should wait until next year's constitutional convention to "set limitations on such issues."
Furthermore, Turnbull said the resolution, which sparked much debate in the Senate earlier this month, is problematic because it reduces the threshold for voting on initiatives "which will affect the entire community" and would make it possible for a well-organized minority "to have its way" over a less organized majority of residents.
During a recent Senate session, however, Berry said the bill would allow residents to more easily bring initiatives before voters. She said presently, to get an initiative passed it takes more than 50 percent of the registered voters, and pointed out that since barely 50 percent of the eligible voters even vote, it is almost impossible to get an initiative passed (See "Rules Committee Sends Three Government Reform Bills to the Full Senate" and "Senators Disagree on Most Everything in Full Session").
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