ST. THOMAS – The 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands, led by Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr. convened in regular session to receive the 6th State of the Territory Address from the Honorable Governor Albert Bryan Jr. The annual address is mandated by the Revised Organic Act of 1954. Senators eagerly awaited the Governor’s insights into economic growth strategies, particularly considering the current economic challenges facing the territory.
During the annual address, the Governor highlighted several aspects of the territory, such as the rebound the territory has made since the COVID-19 pandemic, such as increased consumer spending, and major investments from the public and business sector. Per the governor’s address, the territory’s GDP has increased from 2020, which is currently valued at approximately $4 Billion. The territory’s employment numbers have improved, with more than 1,000 new jobs in 2023. The territory recorded a record low unemployment rate of 3.2 percent in November 2023, and averaged 3.5% throughout 2023.
The Governor spoke to the economic difficulties that the territory has been facing, noting that the local consumer price index increased by 8.6% in 2021 and again by 9.8% ending December 2022. Gross revenue collections totaled $942 Million in FY 2023 compared to the record of $1.1 Billion in FY2022, a reduction of 14 percent.
Senate President Novelle E. Francis Jr. alluded to high food prices in the territory, stating that it was important that the government do what they could to assist residents. Senate Vice Marvin A. Blyden voiced disappointment that the Governor did not speak about home ownership in the territory. Blyden stated that home ownership was one of the most important investments that one could make. He voiced concern over high construction prices in the territory and implored his colleagues in the Senate to help residents realize home ownership dreams through federal funds.
Senators present at today’s session included Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Diane T. Capehart, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. Degraff, Ray Fonseca, Alma Francis Heyliger, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Kenneth L. Gittens, Marise C. James, Javan E. James, Sr., Franklin D. Johnson, Carla J. Joseph, and Milton E. Potter.
The Division of Public Affairs is committed to providing the community with accurate information on legislative proceedings and other events at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands.