DeJongh signs revised borrowing bill


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ST. THOMAS - Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed a bill Tuesday that amends a previously approved $50 million borrowing authorization to help the territory's hospitals pay their utility bills, address other needs and help close the current fiscal year's budget deficit.

Last week, deJongh called the Senate into special session to deal with the measure, which was in response to a bill passed by the Senate last month.

In June, the governor sent proposed legislation to the Senate to borrow $169 million. The borrowing would have covered the $30 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year and fund a number of what the governor called critical needs, including paying both hospitals' outstanding utility bills and giving the hospitals a cash infusion of about $15 million each.

At a session later that month, the Senate rejected the governor's plan, tabling the legislation indefinitely.

Instead, the Senate introduced and passed its own plan - a bill authorizing the government to re-issue a short-term working capital loan for $50 million that must be repaid in 270 days.

DeJongh said the amendment is needed to give the government more flexibility, allowing the government to issue a short-term note in anticipation of issuing longer-term bonds or issue a loan that is converted to a long-term maturity after the 270 days.

The $50 million authorized by the Senate will go to the hospitals and toward other needs in the government including:

- $1 million for Luis Hospital to upgrade medical records.

- $11 million for Luis Hospital to meet payroll from July to September.

- $7 million for Schneider Hospital to pay outstanding accounts payable.

- $3.5 million for capital improvements for Schneider Hospital.

- $1.5 million to the V.I. Human Services Department to pay Sea View Nursing Home an outstanding debt.

- $12 million to the V.I. Water and Power Authority to pay a portion of the government's outstanding utility bills of $5.25 million for each hospital and $1.5 million for the Bureau of Corrections.

The earmarks total about $36 million, leaving about $14 million to help address the government's current $27 million budget shortfall.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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