Government will spend roughly an additional $92 million this year after lawmakers approved a raft of extra expenditures during three days of Finance Committee hearings that started Friday and wrapped up Tuesday.

Finance Minister Roy McTaggart explained that the extra spending needs to be added to government’s 2019 budget because of shifting policy priorities, changes in timelines for projects, and other factors.

Despite adding some $92 million to this year’s budget, government is still on target to have a surplus of more than $60 million, according to McTaggart.

The largest spending increases were $11.3 million for tertiary healthcare at overseas and local institutions; $8.8 million for equipment and infrastructure repairs for the fire and prison services; and $8.8 million to cover the cost of additional public sector health insurance premiums.

An additional $7.8 million was also approved, with much of that appropriation to be used to make an offer to purchase a private building, which will serve as the new headquarters for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. McTaggart said buying a new RCIPS building will save government money on rental costs in the long run.

Most of the supplemental appropriations were approved unanimously by legislators during the three days of Finance Committee.

One appropriation that was nearly voted down was an additional $1.3 million for the Utility Regulation and Competition Office. The vote was split – with seven in favour and seven against the funding – until McTaggart, who is the Finance Committee chairman, voted in favour of the spending to break the tie.

Another spending package that received ‘no’ votes was an allocation of $298,000 for additional staff for the Governor’s Office. It was revealed during the debate on this spending that some of the funds would also go towards paying for plans made by former Governor Anwar Choudhury to hold more public events at Government House. Bernie Bush, Arden McLean, Chris Saunders and Anthony Eden voted against this spending.

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.