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Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Extending the Life of the Virgin Islands Company.

June 30, 1948

I HAVE today signed H.R. 5904, an act which extends the life of the Virgin Islands Company 1 year.

I am keenly disappointed that the Congress did not see fit to enact long-range legislation for the economic development of the Virgin Islands which I have repeatedly recommended. Stopgap measures such as H.R. 5904 contribute little toward making the islands economically self-sustaining and raising the standard of living of its inhabitants. Economic self-sufficiency can only be achieved by a program which will broaden the economic base of the islands and promote the development of local resources.

The first step in such a program should be the enactment of a permanent charter giving the Virgin Islands Company expanded 'powers and more adequate financial resources. A bill to accomplish these objectives was introduced in the 80th Congress, but failed to pass. H.R. 5904 merely continues the Company for 1 year and gives it no new powers. Funds provided in the Government Corporations Appropriation Act will only be sufficient to carry the Company through part of the coming fiscal year.

In addition to working toward a self-supporting Virgin Islands economy, the Federal Government should provide means whereby the Virgin Islands Government can provide essential community services-such as schools and hospitals--which are at present lacking or are inadequately financed.

In the past this need has been partially met by annual appropriations, anticipating deficits in the local treasuries. A better solution of this problem would be to return to the Virgin Islands the internal revenue tax on local products. In this manner a regular income would be provided for essential functions of local government.

Legislation to this effect also was introduced in the 80th Congress, but was blocked by the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives which did not report the bill to the House. The Congress was therefore obliged at the last moment to revert to the previous practice of appropriating funds to meet the expected deficit in the local treasuries.

The world is watching what we do in our possessions. The United States should set an example through progressive measures calculated to assure self-government and to promote the welfare of the inhabitants of our Territories and possessions. This legislative record does not meet that standard.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 5904 is Public Law 855, 80th Congress (62 Stat. 1170).

Harry S Truman, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Extending the Life of the Virgin Islands Company. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232610

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