St. Thomas, USVI Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory announced that the 34th Legislature heard the Executive BranchÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Budget Overview during a Committee on Finance hearing held today in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. The GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s financial team was present to justify the proposed biennial budget submitted on May 28, 2021. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The idea of a biennial budget is one that should have been discussed colloboratively due to its impact on Legislative authority,Ã¢â‚¬Â stated Senate President Frett-Gregory, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Those conversations would have highlighted concerns regarding Section 9 of the Revised Organic Act and the implementation of a biennial budget.Ã¢â‚¬Â
While we are all for progress and moving the Virgin Islands forward, we have to be responsible leaders. These are unprecedented times, and as made clear by the GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s financial team in todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s testimony the uptick in revenue collections are a direct result of these times. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Disaster recovery and coronavirus relief funding are the basis for the rise in the revenue collections, stated Senate President Frett-Gregory, Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have to ensure that proposed expenditures are sustainable beyond the one year period.Ã¢â‚¬Â Executive budgets, like all budgets, are based on projections and evaluating expenses and revenue collections.
A biennial budget is untimely at this juncture, when there are so many changing variables. We have to examine what will occur as the Caribbean reopens to visitors, how the cruise industry will fare in the upcoming months, and the uncertainty surrounding Limetree BayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ability to refine must also be considered. Ã¢â‚¬Å“With so many unknowns, it calls into question revenue projections. Even if the law permitted, it is not timely or responsible for the Legislature to consider a two year budget.Ã¢â‚¬Â said Frett-Gregory.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As the Legislature continues to work on solutions for GERS, it was the expectation that the GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proposed budget would be more inclusive of support for the system. The members of the 34th Legislature will continue to vet the proposed FY 2022 Budget and enact a balanced budget that comprehensively addresses government services, income tax refunds, government employeesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ salary increases and will work towards ensuring an enacted budget by October .Ã¢â‚¬Â ended Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory.