Mutiny! Four Cayman lawmakers vote against budget

For
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.

Premier
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.

Education
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.

The
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.

The
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.

It
was this proposal that led opposition party lawmakers Kurt Tibbetts, Arden
McLean, Anthony Eden and Moses Kirkconnell to vote “no” on the entire spending
plan.

Mr.
Tibbetts had previously stated that “God himself” would have to instruct him to
vote for the proposed budget if it contained the fuel increase.

Mr.
Miller – who abstained from voting on the budget – also said he had serious
concerns about the plan.

Although
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.

A
visibly outraged Premier McKeeva Bush lambasted opposition lawmakers for
opposing the budget.

“Leadership
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.”

Mr.
Bush said his government had examined many other options and had determined
that the fuel import increase was the lesser of many evils.

For
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.

An
increase in vehicle registration charges from $160 to $400 annually – as Mr.
Miller had proposed – would cost drivers an extra $240 a year.

Income
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.

The
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.

According
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.

“This
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.”

Mr.
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.

The
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”.

“It
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 country.”

At
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
the legislature.

“Madam
Speaker, I don’t want to get into an argument with you,” Mr. Bush said.

“There
is no argument when I speak,” Mrs. Lawrence retorted.

“I
am going to suspend this house for five minutes while you get yourself under
control,” Mrs. Lawrence told the premier.

“I
am more under control right now than you,” Mr. Bush said back.

Proceedings
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.

Please
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.  

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. In reference to the current economic state of affairs and the US possible new Bill/ Law on BAanks, I wonder if any mention will be made to address the exorbitant fees that ALL banks charge. Has anyone really scrtinize the Schedule of Fees that banks charge and match that against the small interest rates issued? Why cannot the banks share the hundreds of millions of after tax profits they make with their customers/ the same customers who are responsible for their growth. In my mind the banks have grown too big and have now become money hungry monsters biting the hand that fed them.

  2. Obviously those that approved the budget could care less what is in it. How can Cayman’s budget be fast tracked for approval after 2 days. I am proud of those that did not support it and I still have to wonder how it could have been put to a vote with so many members not in attendance.

    I am truly afraid for my future here in Cayman. As a Caymanian I never thought that such blundering mismanagement of our country by its elected officials could make me consider moving away from home. I dont think that Cayman will survive the term of these officials.

  3. Please stop leading people to believe it is the gas Stations marking fuel up this high. It’s not. The gas Stations make far less profit than the CENTS stated here per gallon. The depots on island are another story. They are not some of the most profitable corporations in the history of the world on accident. Thank you.
    BTW & FYI, fuel is relatively inexpensive on this island. Check the price in Barbados…or in Haiti, where people really cannot afford it.

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