Published: Oct 30, 2023

ST. THOMAS – Members of the Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance, chaired by Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building. Lawmakers voted in the affirmative for a bill relating to the foreclosure of the Liens Upon Real Property. However, bills to establish the Virgin Islands Beautification Tax Credit, and the allocation of $2.5 million to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority for beautification purposes were held in committee. All approved items will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Lawmakers voted favorably for Bill No. 35-0099 – An Act amending Title 28, chapter 23, of the Virgin Islands Code relating to the foreclosure of Liens Upon Real Property. The bill was proposed by Senator Marise C. James. Senator Frett-Gregory expressed support of the measure while expressing the significance of educating the community on their rights and strategies when encountering certain challenges. To strengthen the bill, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor St. Croix District Director Cleopatria Pierre recommended that an amendment needs to be added to the bill for clarification. Pierre stated that if a lien, mortgage, deed of trust, or other instrument creating a security interest expires, the lien holder or owner of the security interest must file a written notice in the Recorder of Deeds Office where it is recorded; if not, the property owner may provide notice. Senator James noted that she understands the process and is willingly to collaborate with stakeholders to solidify the measure. Senator Marvin Blyden stated that overall, the legislation paves pathways for homeownership and equity for Virgin Islanders.

Separately, senators voted to hold in committee: Bill No. 35-0097 – An Act amending Title 33 Virgin Islands Code, subtitle 1, part 1, chapter 3 by adding section 43m to establish the “Virgin Islands Beautification Tax Credit.” The measure was proposed by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr. The Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue Director Joel Lee noted that gross receipts taxes are tied to the bond covenants, which doesn’t allow the reduction of collections without formal approval. Joel added that the bill can put GVI in a default status. Voicing concerns, the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works (DPW) Commissioner Derek Gabriel indicated that DPW lacks the staff to establish an in-house program tasked with establishing rules and regulations, in addition to managing the set-up. Senator Frett-Gregory stated that the bill speaks to Virgin Islands pride along with private and public partnership. We must figure out how to make it work.

Lastly, policymakers voted to hold in committee: Bill No. 35-0118 – An Act amending Title 33 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 3, section 54(b)(3)(D)(iii) allocating $2,500,000 of the Timeshare Environmental/Infrastructure Impact Fee to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) for beautification and cleanup of the Territory. The bill is sponsored by Senator Dwayne M. DeGraff. Supporting the measure, VIWMA Deputy Executive Director Luis Sylvester on mentioned backed that the expense of disposing of solid trash surpasses the amount of funding allocated for each fiscal year. The Office of Management and Budget Director Jenifer O’Neal, however, stated that OMB is unable to support the proposal because of the lack of a financing source. According to O’Neal, there will be negative effects on fiscal years 2023–2024 and beyond due to the reallocation of money.

The following committee members senators attended the meeting: Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carriόn, Javan E. James, Sr., Ray Fonseca, and Dwayne M. DeGraff.                                                                                                                                            ###

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