what’s believed to be the first time in Cayman’s history, several elected
legislators voted against the government’s budget during a heated and often
disorganised Legislative Assembly session Thursday.
McKeeva Bush’s $510 million spending plan did receive approval by an eight to
four vote margin. The vote was split directly along political party lines with
independent MLA Ezzard Miller abstaining.
Minister Rolston Anglin and George Town MLA Alden McLaughlin were absent for
the vote; Mr. Anglin was at a graduation ceremony, Mr. McLaughlin was
recovering from surgery at a Florida hospital.
new budget – which includes a 3.2 per cent pay cut for government workers and
$155 million in additional public sector borrowing – also calls for a 25 cent
increase in import duties charged on gas and diesel fuel.
increase would raise gas import duty from 50 cents per gallon to 75 cents per
gallon. It would increase diesel import duty from 60 cents per gallon to 85
cents per gallon.
was this proposal that led opposition party lawmakers Kurt Tibbetts, Arden
McLean, Anthony Eden and Moses Kirkconnell to vote “no” on the entire spending
Tibbetts had previously stated that “God himself” would have to instruct him to
vote for the proposed budget if it contained the fuel increase.
Miller – who abstained from voting on the budget – also said he had serious
concerns about the plan.
the fuel import duty increase is not reality yet – a vote on the import hike
itself is still needed and could come as early as Friday – the budget requires
the $10.2 million the duty increase is expected to generate.
visibly outraged Premier McKeeva Bush lambasted opposition lawmakers for
opposing the budget.
requires prudence,” Mr. Bush said during his introduction of the proposed amendment
to fuel import duties. “We must be prepared to make the tough decisions that
are in the country’s interest.”
Bush said his government had examined many other options and had determined
that the fuel import increase was the lesser of many evils.
instance, Mr. Bush said the projected five per cent increase in electricity
bills expected to result from the import duty hike would mean roughly $10 extra
a month on a $200 CUC bill. That
would add up to $120 per year in additional electric bills.
increase in vehicle registration charges from $160 to $400 annually – as Mr.
Miller had proposed – would cost drivers an extra $240 a year.
taxes of two per cent on a $30,000 a year salary would come to $600 a year;
while property taxes of two per cent on a $200,000 home would lead to yearly
payments of $4,000, Mr. Bush said.
premier said he realised that gas stations around the Islands were likely to increase
prices at the pump because of the duty hikes. He said he was pleading with
stations not to do so.
to Mr. Bush, the local average markup on a $4.41 gallon of gas was $1.78. For
diesel that markup was $1.67, he said.
constitutes very heavy margins which can be reduced at this time in the
interests of the country,” he said. “I am begging those who have the power in
their hands to give the country some help.”
Bush then slammed Cayman Brac MLA Moses Kirkconnell, in particular for voting
against the budget; which the premier said provided the Sister Islands with
millions for economic development.
premier then launched a verbal assault against “newspapers, blogs and radio
shows” for allowing “misinformation” to be spread about the budget as opposed
to “educating the public”.
is them (referring to the various media, specifically mentioning the Caymanian
Compass and a local blog site) that causes misinformation to be spread around
this point in the debate, Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence intervened and
asked the premier to keep his comments on the topic of debate that was before
Speaker, I don’t want to get into an argument with you,” Mr. Bush said.
is no argument when I speak,” Mrs. Lawrence retorted.
am going to suspend this house for five minutes while you get yourself under
control,” Mrs. Lawrence told the premier.
am more under control right now than you,” Mr. Bush said back.
were later ended for the day and no further debate occurred. Speaker Lawrence said she would make a
statement at the beginning of Friday morning’s house session.
check back for more updates on this story on www.caycompass.com
and read all about it in Monday’s editions of the Caymanian Compass.