WASHINGTON, USA -- On Friday, US Virgin Islands Governor John de Jongh met with officials of the Department of the Interior to press once again for a reconsideration of a decision with regard to the advance payment of rum cover-over revenues at the $13.25 extender rate.
Friday’s meeting followed a series of previous conversations the governor has had with federal government officials on this critical issue.
US Virgin Islands Governor John de Jongh
“We met this afternoon with Acting Secretary Lorraine Faeth and Interior Insular Affairs Director Nick Pula and once again made our case for the release of the advance payment at the $13.25 extender rate. In the past several months, my administration had written to officials at Interior explaining the financial hardship that their initial decision represented at a time when the government could least afford a reduction in the advance payment on rum revenues,” de Jongh said on Friday.
At the conclusion of the meeting, he said, the department’s decision to release the advance payment on rum revenues will result in a little over $60 million dollars being deposited into the treasury of the US Virgin Islands government.
In recent months, de Jongh had lobbied both Interior officials and Congressional leaders for a reconsideration of the decision.
“As I learned of Interior’s decision, I contacted both Delegate Donna Christensen and Senate President Shawn Michael Malone to not only advise them of the favorable progress on this issue but to thank both of them for their efforts in lobbying the Department of the Interior,” he said.
De Jongh said he remains optimistic that the US Virgin Islands will achieve the ultimate goal -- a permanent lifting of the cap on rum revenues and a return of the full $13.25 rate to the treasury of the territorial government.
“We will continue our efforts to educate members of the US House and Senate on the importance of the rum cover-over revenues to the government of the Virgin Islands and the need for the extenders to be approved at the higher rate of $13.25,” he said.
The governor cautioned that, while approximately $63 million is being released, a portion of the monies is due and owing to the two rum companies operating in the US Virgin Islands.
“Once those monies are paid, the remainder, about $30 million, will be deposited in the government’s coffers. I view today’s development as the first step in facing our budget shortfall this fiscal year but we have some ways to go to bridge the more than $70 million projected deficit by the end of September,” de Jongh said.