A 500 Word Summary of the State of the Territory Address: COMMENTARY BY POKORNY
In case you were doing something a lot more interesting than listening to the speech by Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. Here are the highlights and insights:
- The good news: the economy grew almost two percent last year. The bad news: Most of the growth is coming from FEMA and federal grants. Money soon to run dry.
- WAPA: good news, no higher rates, despite all the readjustments. Plus, they have good workers. The bad news: management has to go, or least needs to be held accountable.
- Tourism is coming back with airlifts up 42 percent and hotels rooms back to 2,500 rooms from the peak before the wind of 4,500 rooms. Looks like 3,550 in 2020. Plus, there are 3,000 in BNB and other private villas, making a total of almost 7,000 daily rooms. Bad news: cruise ship arrivals are down in double digits.
- Lots of infrastructure projects are about to be implemented, including ports and airport improvements – “We will be modern and competitive.”
- A very small percentage of people pay for 89 percent of the tax paid into the General Fund. Bad news: they are coming for you …
- VI Lottery will fall in line with 50 other states and adopting 20-year-old technology.
- Oh my gosh, VI will have the option to have on-line vehicle registration, a 17-year old technology. I hear that pay-at-the pump gasoline is expanding too!
- And finally, education and Cradle to Career has been addressed. Childcare and education, beginning at an early age. 490-219, as mentioned, is what is exciting. Twenty-seven representatives are working together to develop a workforce.
Now the reality. What is the total investment cost to repair and bring the entire territory to become “modern and competitive?” I suggest $2-3 billion. In my estimation the General Fund needs to go from $800 million to $1.6 billion annually. Since one third of revenue generated by the economy finds its way into the General Fund, that means the economy must grow 100 percent.
Last year, according to the governor, the economy grew at a recent 10-year record of 1.8 percent.
Right near the end of the speech he acknowledges the priority, quintessential importance of educating the next generation. I’m not sure why it was buried at the bottom, but Amen to this. I hope this commitment, and commitment to teachers is a true pledge. His commitment provides a real sense of hope. A key to the economy is the availability of a well-educated, properly trained workforce will drive the next chapter once FEMA and Fed grands are dried up.
I give the governor high marks for his speech delivery. He is in a position that is almost impossible. He did an admirable job of painting a “half full” picture of the future. Let us give him six months to make good on this picture. I will continue to keep you appraised. God Speed.
—GARY S. POKORNY