Mapp Acts on Nineteen Measures … Governor Vetoes Telemedicine Bill, EDC Extension Bill
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Governor Kenneth Mapp has vetoed a bill that would allow tax breaks to be extended for ten additional years without the approval of the Economic Development Commission nor the chief executive.
Bill No. 32-0175 purports to grant the commission more autonomy, but instead loosens the requirements for renewing tax benefits.
“Dangerous and concerning is Section 4 of the bill, the Legislature proposes to, by Legislative fiat grant 10-year extension of benefits at 100 percent of benefits to existing beneficiaries without the current statute’s (29 V.IC. §713a(b)(5)) requirement that the Commission recommend such an extension and approval of the governor and without a public hearing. My friends, we do not want to do this,” the governor wrote in his letter to Senate President Myron Jackson. “Additionally, Section 5 of the bill allows EDC applicants to apply the tax benefits granted to a date of its choosing even if the applicant does not have a business license in place – only that it has been applied for by the applicant – and regardless whether the applicant has paid taxes or other fees to the government it owes.”
The governor also vetoed Bill No. 32-0147, which primarily relates to the practice of telemedicine. Mapp said he supported residents’ expanded access to telemedicine, however, the bill before him had major flaws including reducing gross receipt taxes for some physicians from 5 to 2.5 percent. Governor Mapp said the territory could not justify diminishing its revenue base while at the same time drawing down on much needed funds from the territory’s recently authorized Community Disaster Loan.
“How do we continue to justify accessing these funds while at the same time reducing our revenue base?” the governor asked.
Mapp moved to approve Bill No. 32-0130, which toughens criminal penalties against gang members for gang-related activities and establishes the Crime and Gang Prevention Fund. The bill aligns the Virgin Islands with other states that have enacted anti-gang statutes. It is hoped that the stiffer penalties imposed by this legislation will assist in deterring gang related crimes in the territory.
The governor also approved a measure that will provide some property tax relief, particularly to residents of St. John, by creating a “circuit breaker” system to prevent real estate owners from being overburdened by property taxes. Bill No. 32-0030 also amends the definition of commercial property to include apartments with five or more units and grants the Tax Assessor’s authority to offer tax credits to property owners in the Charlotte Amalie historic district.
Several Coastal Zone permits, rezonings and land use variances were also approved by the Governor on Tuesday. The Permits ratified by Mapp included a dock in Fish Bay, St. John and the continued operation of the reverse osmosis plant at Mahogany Run.
Read the Governor’s complete message here.
In other action Tuesday, Mapp announced that the State of Emergency declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands had been extended through June 2, 2018.