ST. THOMAS — Lawmakers in the 32nd Legislature on Thursday moved to override a veto of Bill No. 32-0175 that strips the governor of his power over the Economic Development Commission (E.D.C.), in a bid to make the authority more autonomous in its decisions.
The bill, according to its sponsor Kurt Vialet, seen above, also aims to streamline the EDC’s application process to lure new businesses to the territory.
The governor in a release issued May 2, announced that he had vetoed the measure and gave reasons for his decision.
The bill was birthed following concerns by some senators that the law left too much power to the governor. A similar measure also sponsored by Mr. Vialet was already vetoed by Mr. Mapp.
In June of 2017, the governor rejected 11 of 41 EDC applicants and stated that he was happy to do so. “There’s this misperception that whoever applies for benefits will simply get them,” Mr. Mapp said last year.
But some lawmakers were not in agreement with the governor’s stance. Mr. Vialet has argued that the governor does not need to be in the process of approving E.D.C. benefits, given through the E.D.A., as it slows down application time. On Thursday, he said, “We’re supposed to have a competent board assembled at the E.D.C. and they should be charged with vetting and making those decisions and moving forward.”
In his transmittal letter to Senate President Myron Jackson on May 2, the governor gave reasons for the veto. “Dangerous and concerning is section 4 of the bill, the Legislature proposes to, by Legislative fiat grant 10-year extension of benefits at 100 percent of benefits to existing beneficiaries without the current statute’s (29 V.IC. §713a(b)(5)) requirement that the commission recommend such an extension and approval of the governor and without a public hearing. My friends, we do not want to do this,” the governor wrote. “Additionally, Section 5 of the bill allows EDC applicants to apply the tax benefits granted to a date of its choosing even if the applicant does not have a business license in place – only that it has been applied for by the applicant – and regardless whether the applicant has paid taxes or other fees to the government it owes.”
Mr. Vialet has stated his intention to amend the measure that would reinstate the need for board approval after a company’s 10-year time benefit time has expired. But the bill’s removal of the governor’s veto-like power over the board will remain as is, he said.