Gov. deJongh misses deadline to submit budget to Senate


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ST. THOMAS - For the fourth year in a row, Gov. John deJongh Jr. has missed the statutory deadline to submit his budget proposal to the V.I. Legislature.

V.I. Code mandates that the annual budget be submitted by the governor to the Legislature by May 30 each year.

Thursday, deJongh sent a letter to Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone indicating that the Fiscal Year 2015 executive budget would be late.

The governor submitted the 2012 budget on June 10, 2011, the 2013 budget on June 29, 2012, and the 2014 budget on June 14, 2013.

In a letter to Malone, deJongh said he plans to have the budget - the eighth and final of his administration - ready no later than June 16.

The late submission puts pressure on the Senate, which must hold hearings, make changes and pass the budget before the next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Sen. Clifford Graham, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, had already scheduled an overview of the budget for June 12 and the first hearing on June 17.

DeJongh attributes the late budget to "many challenges" and named two specific hurdles:

- The FY 2014 $40 million projected cash flow shortfall, which has yet to be addressed.

- The delay in updating the government's financial management system, the enterprise resource planning system, because funding requested to do so in the current fiscal year has not been appropriated.

The budget gap for the current fiscal year has been a problem since the budget was put in place in October. It started as a $70 million shortfall, but the receipt of rum cover-over revenues from the federal government closed the gap to about $40 million.

Despite many public hearings with the governor's financial team, and closed-door meetings between senators and the governor, the Legislature has not passed any legislation to eliminate the current budget deficit.

"Despite these efforts, we still await the Legislature's recommendations to address this shortfall," deJongh said in his letter to Malone.

The other issue hampering the timely budget submittal is the enterprise resource planning system, according to deJongh.

"The lack of upgrades to our ERP System has created substantial difficulties and delays in our ability to input a new fiscal year budget into the system. We anticipate that the Legislature will shortly approve the requested funding for these critical updates," he said.

The annual budget hearings help senators learn more about budget requests of each government department and agency that receives funding under the governor's proposal.

Once budget hearings are complete, the majority caucus will go into budget mark-up and make changes to the governor's proposal. Then, the Senate's final version is considered and approved through the Finance Committee, the Rules and Judiciary Committee and the full body before going to the governor for his signature.

The governor said he will work with the senators in the upcoming budget season.

"I assure you that my administration will continue to work collaboratively with you and the members of the 30th Legislature throughout the upcoming budget process to bring about solutions for the people of the Virgin Islands as we move forward in this very challenging economic environment," deJongh said in his letter to Malone.

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

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