The National Black Chamber of Commerce and the U.S Virgin Islands have fired off a blistering retort to Florida Republican George LeMieux, saying his amendment to change the way rum taxes are distributed would further impoverish the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Harry Alford, president of the chamber, called LeMieux's legislation -- tacked onto a Senate jobs bill -- an "assault on the people and livelihood of the U.S. Virgin Islands." He said LeMieux's amendment would overturn "more than 90 years of policy" and "completely changes the nature" of the tax distribution.
"It is a naked and reprehensible money grab by Puerto Rico – a cynical nod to special interests that would put the U.S. Virgin Islands into receivership," Alford said. He said the amendment would make Virgin Islanders produce rum but "let Puerto Rico reap the benefits of those Virgin Islanders’ hard work.
"All of America should be offended by this plantation-era treatment of the U.S. Virgin Islands – this is, after all, 2010, not 1810."
And John P. deJongh, Jr., the governor of the Virgin Islands, said the change would "severely harm" the island's economy "and overtly favors Puerto Rico.
"Senator LeMieux's amendment looks like it was developed alongside Puerto Rican lobbyists," he wrote.