In Face Of Massive Protest, Virgin Islands Sin Tax Bill Advances
ST. THOMAS — The message could not have been any clearer on Wednesday, as a massive crowd of St. Thomas businesses owners and private citizens overwhelmed 32nd Legislature senators outside the Earl B. Ottley Legislative Hall here, screaming to the top of their voices words of opposition to Governor Kenneth Mapp’s sin tax bill, which seeks to either introduce or raise taxes on tobacco products, rum, beer, sugary drinks, as well as internet purchases and timeshare unit owners.
It was one of the biggest turnouts for a protest against government in years, and it stunned lawmakers, who spoke on multiple occasions during yesterday’s Committee on Finance hearing, where the bill was deliberated for over 9 hours.
In the end, the measure passed the Finance Committee, led by a group of Democrats who from the onset hinted that they would support the measure.
Voting yea were senators Kurt Vialet, chair of the committee, Neville James, the Senate majority leader, Marvin Blyden, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly and newcomer Brian Smith. Voting nay were senators Tregenza Roach and Dwayne DeGraff, the latter being part of the minority caucus. The vote was a replay of a previous Committee on Finance hearing where the same sin tax measure was heard.