Government

Senate Budget Committee Approves $1 Billion-Plus Budget for FY 2024

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Central government, numerous agencies, and disaster-driven projects set to benefit from funding.

In a decisive move for the fiscal year 2024, the Senate Budget Committee has greenlit a budget surpassing $1.017 billion. Of this substantial amount, the general fund will allocate $960 million, while other diverse sources, including the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund, will contribute an additional $57.2 million. Additionally, the budget integrates an expected revenue of $61.2 million from projects related to disaster recovery and a notable $69.1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, which remains under the stewardship of the executive branch.

Committee Chair, Senator Donna Frett-Gregory, acknowledged some challenges with revenue streams while commenting on the fiscal year’s final budget session. Senator Novelle Francis, both the Senate’s President and a member of the budget committee, lauded the committee’s diligence, noting, “Our comprehensive approach over several months involved in-depth sessions, including discussions with over 60 agencies and the core finance team of the government. We’ve ensured accountability at all levels.”

The sanctioned budget is set to finance operations across diverse sectors, including the Office of the Inspector General, Virgin Islands Hospital and Health Facilities Cooperation, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and the Waste Management Authority. Significant appropriations have been noted by Senator Ray Fonseca for key agencies like the American Cancer Society and Catholic Charities. The Education Initiative Fund will also allocate $500,000 for the meticulous editing and printing of Virgin Islands-specific history textbooks. These funds aim to finalize the Social Studies curriculum from kindergarten to Grade 8.

However, financial prudence remained a shared concern. Senator Diane Capeheart expressed reservations about the sustainability of such expansive spending, especially given the dependency on the American Rescue Plan Act funds. Echoing this sentiment, Senator Alma Francis-Heyliger underscored the imperative of prioritizing revenue generation in subsequent fiscal strategies.

On a separate note, Senator Javan James Sr. drew attention to the Virgin Islands Taxicab Commission’s absence during budget presentations. The committee, nevertheless, sanctioned a budget for the Commission, with James hinting at possible future legislative evaluations for the agency.

With unanimous agreement, barring the absence of Senator Samuel Carrion, the funding package progressed. A subsequent review by the Committee on Rules and Judiciary awaits, where it will be deliberated and voted upon.

For more updates on USVI News & World Report, stay tuned.

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