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Mapp Will Ask The Senate For $426M To Spend On ‘Projects’ As He Sees Fit

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MAPP WANTS A PIMPED OUT RIDE

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Gov. Kenneth Mapp wants to spend more of your tax money — and soon.

Mapp will ask the Legislature for dramatic tax hikes in advance of a planned $426 million bond sale.

Government House has introduced a bill for a $396 million bond to the island’s Senate. The bond is planned to be sold this fall. Mapp has stated that he wants a $30 million bond to support changes to two landfills in the territory.

But a confidential draft Virgin Islands government five year financial plan dated Sept. 15 shows that, without any changes in revenue measures or spending, the government anticipates operating deficits between $130 million and $140 million from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2021. In response the government is proposing a wide array of revenue and spending initiatives.

If they were all implemented the government expects it would have operating deficits of $0.8 million in fiscal 2017, $14.3 million in fiscal 2018, and $13.8 million in fiscal 2019. These would be followed by surpluses of $50 million in fiscal 2020 and $77.5 million in fiscal 2021.

Among the Mapp’s proposed revenue initiatives would be an increase in the marine terminal user’s tax (adding $7 million in annual revenue), a new internet gross receipts tax ($5.1 million annually), an increase in cigarette taxes ($6.9 million a year), and an increase in beer taxes ($12.8 million annually). It would approve applications for economic development commission benefits. While the governor doesn’t have an estimate of the revenue benefit of this, he seems to suggest that it would produce at least $25 million annually.

To cut spending, the governor is proposing reductions in hiring, insurance, and health insurance costs.

The government’s fiscal year starts on Nov. 1 and any tax raises or spending cuts wouldn’t start before then.

In the five year plan, the governor indicates the government plan to take out a $55 million working capital loan and a $55 million draw on a line of credit. Further, $147 million of the $396 million bond’s revenues are expected to be used for operating expenses, according to the governor’s proposed bill. Of this $147 million, the central government would take $116 million, a local hospital and a local medical center would use $25 million, and the Virgin Islands Management Authority would spend $6 million.

The government plans to use the balance of the $396 million bond for capital projects.

According to the bill presented to the Senate, which could be amended, the bond is to offer interest rates no higher than 9.5% and a term of no more than 30 years. Morgan Stanley confirmed Friday it will be the lead underwriter.

The draft bill says the bond will be sold as either: a matching fund revenue bond, paid back with a portion of taxes on the sale of rum in the 50 states that the federal government sends to the Virgin Islands; or a gross receipts taxes bond, paid back from a government sales tax.

The gross receipts tax bond is rated BB by Fitch Ratings. The most senior lien matching fund bond is rated B1 by Moody’s Investor’s Service and BB by Fitch Ratings.

neville-james-at-the-governors-2015-state-of-the-territory-address

RUBBER STAMP PRESIDENT: Sen. Neville James doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to stand up to Mapp’s demands.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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