Federal legislation to establish a chief financial officer for the Virgin Islands was voted out of the Natural Resources Committee on Thursday by unanimous consent, according to the office of Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen.
The committee amended the bill, which was sponsored and long-championed by Christensen, to reflect changes suggested by Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Anthony Babauta when he testified before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs on the bill last month.
The committee also added an amendment recommended by President Barack Obama's administration to clarify that the duties of the CFO include preparing, as well as certifying, the annual spending limits of the government, Christensen said in a statement. It "seeks to end this acrimony and restore trust by the public that the revenue projections of their government will be made without political consideration,” Christensen said before the subcommittee last month.
The measure, which has been a pet project for Christensen for a decade now, is controversial, with some supporters looking to it as a way to rein in the worst excesses of local government and ensure tax dollars are spent properly. Critics, including Gov. John deJongh Jr., have objected to the potential encroachment upon local governance.
"The principles so central to the philosophy of the majority – limiting to the greatest extent possible the intrusion of the federal government into the affairs of state and local governments — are violated by this proposal," deJongh said while testifying before the committee in May.
The bill is expected to reach the floor of the House for a vote before the August recess, according to Christensen's office. If it is approved there, then it must be sponsored and approved in the Senate, then signed by the president to become law.