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U.S. Urges Virgin Islands on Budget

June 25, 1999

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) _ The U.S. Virgin Islands government, saddled with more than $1 billion in debt, has 30 days to come up with a financial recovery plan, the U.S. Department of the Interior says.

Representatives of the U.S. Caribbean territory agreed during a meeting Thursday with department officials in Washington to draft the financial plan and monitor its progress, a statement Thursday by the agency said.

The Virgin Islands must demonstrate financial accountability to have access to a $5.4 million construction grant for court-ordered infrastructure projects, a Senate subcommittee said Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Turnbull said federal officials were disappointed that the Virgin Islands government backed away from an earlier plan to cut government salaries by 6 percent, which would have saved $20 million in the next fiscal year.

The unions that represent more than 90 percent of the government work force, along with many local senators, opposed the cut.

Turnbull, who was in Washington this week lobbying lawmakers, said in the radio interview Wednesday that the Virgin Islands government needed to ``do its part″ by making sacrifices for economic recovery.

The governor is lobbying Congress this week for money for the U.S. Virgin Islands and their 115,600 residents.

Meanwhile, Turnbull has ordered heads of government agencies to reduce their payrolls by 5 percent, according to a June 15 memo published Friday. The memo orders department heads to freeze hiring and reduce overtime costs by 50 percent by July 1.

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