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Watch Now: Bryan Delivers His First State of the Territory Address As Governor

News / January 28, 2019

ST. THOMAS — Governor Albert Bryan is delivering his first State of the Territory Address (SoTA) before the 33rd Legislature. Lawmakers as well as the territory’s residents are eager to hear about the governor’s plans for the USVI, a true understanding of the Virgin Islands’ finances, and what Mr. Bryan intends to implement to make the islands better.

Old problems loom large

Mr. Bryan, who ran on a “Change Course Now” theme that saw him beating former Governor Kenneth Mapp to win the highest seat of the land, had criticized the former governor on a number of issues, and vowed to change the way business is done in the USVI. Mr. Bryan also promised to tackle a number of the longstanding issues plaguing the territory, among them the Government Employees’ Retirement System (G.E.R.S.), which is projected to collapse no later than 2023. Mr. Bryan spoke of a number of ideas on how he would move to save the failing pension system, and we’re expecting to hear how he’ll do so.

The V.I.P.D. 

Governor Bryan has said on a number of occasions as governor-elect and governor that the level of crime in the U.S. Virgin Islands is unacceptable. He recognizes how it hurts the territory’s tourism product, as people are often discouraged to visit because of the surging violence (five people have been killed through gun violence this year on St. Croix alone, while another three were shot — an incident that could have easily turned deadly — on St. Thomas). Even so, Mr. Bryan has yet to name a police commissioner, and during a recent press conference addressing crime, he reiterated to The Consortium that he would stick to his 90-day timeline of finding department and agency heads.

We’re expecting Mr. Bryan to either name a police commissioner tonight or give a much shorter window to name one. We are also expecting the governor to layout a more detailed plan as to the new “Change Course Now” strategies his administration will initiate to achieve the reduction of gun violence.

Government’s Financial Condition

The financial condition of the Government of the Virgin Islands is no secret to the public. For years the territory has had only days cash on hand to operate. For years the government did not have access to the bond market, with the rating agencies continuously downgrading the USVI’s bonds. As governor-elect, Mr. Bryan said the financial status of the government was “bad”, a conclusion he came up with following a meeting with then-Governor Mapp’s financial team.

So painting the territory’s financial outlook as dire will not suffice, though it is important that the public be reminded. What we’re hoping to hear is how the governor intends to start building a better financial standing for the territory; how he intends to work towards gaining access to the bond market again — an outlook that was already improving in the last months of the Mapp administration — and how he intends to close a budget deficit that has caused the government to borrow billions of dollars over a decade (there was no borrowing under the Mapp administration, as during the former governor’s tenure, the territory — though it tried — failed to secure funding because of the bad bond rating).

What would also be good is if Mr. Bryan could name an Office of Management and Budget director. Currently, there’s someone acting in the position, but not a permanent head to lead the department forward.


Mr. Bryan criticized the Mapp administration during the campaign for a government seemingly opaque to the public. It would be good if he could announce how he intends to lead an administration that not only responds to requests, but make finding information an easy process.

Update on FEMA programs 

During his address to the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce last week, Mr. Bryan said the territory was currently managing $1.8 billion of federal funding for a number of projects, some yet to be started. An update on where we are relative to progress, and how the administration intends to capture the remaining $8 billion set aside from the USVI should be in order.

Modernization of the Government

Mr. Bryan has complained many times about the archaic manner in which the government operates. He has lamented having difficulty in finding basic information that should be readily available on the internet, and vowed during his campaign to overhaul the system. Announcing a plan to that end during tonight’s SoTA would be beneficial.

There are a number of other topics that the governor should address. Among them healthcare in the USVI, the Department of Education (which, by the way, still needs a commissioner), and even the longstanding issue of paying tax refunds to residents on time.

Though we’re not expecting the governor to solve all the issues at once, he knew of the territory’s hardships long before taking the oath of office, and vowed to be the solver of the problems while campaigning in 2018. Simply taking to a podium and stating that the territory’s condition is bad, or even stating that we are not so bad after all,  while giving broad overtures and ignoring the glaring problems — G.E.R.S., the debt issue, crime, health care — will not be enough to a public that has been well aware of the USVI’s financial position, but trusted Mr. Bryan and his team to change course.

The Consortium will carry the SoTA live on its website and on our Facebook platform. We will also have commentary featuring Consortium Founder Ernice Gilbert and V.I.P.C. co-host Ashley Scotland immediately following the address. Join us.

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