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GovGuam can't afford more financial burdens

by Nick Delgado

Guam - Government of Guam agencies have submitted their final numbers to the Budget Office for review for Fiscal Year 2011. While the Office is confident that they can keep to a reasonable number for the upcoming fiscal year, the island's chief admits GovGuam can't afford additional financial burdens.

A combination of local and federal funds estimated at $748.3 million is the total the Governor's Office submitted for the FY2011 budget.  BBMR director Bertha Duenas said, "Now the process is going to begin very shortly, budget hearing, etc. The Bureau has received all department budgets and were in the process of ongoing review."  Duenas says the numbers are not final, but she anticipates the process to run smoothly.

Taking a look at the numbers, the Executive Branch estimates $12.7 million for its budget, $86.4 million for public safety, $8.7 million for homeland security, $119.1 million for health care, $ 228.6 million for education altogether, $9 million to go towards finance and administration, $13.3 million for natural resources, $3.7 million for labor, $1.7 million for tourism and culture, $29.5 million for transportation, and just over $12 million for revenue and taxation. Additionally, $82.9 million is being eyed for miscellaneous appropriations, which includes a government-wide reclassification that costs some $13 million. $65.5 million for various obligations such as bonds to close the Ordot Dump and open a new landfill is also on the list, along with $74.5 million reserved for various government agencies.

Said Duenas, "The executive budget is actually a summary of the department allocations. The detailed budgets are in the works, and being reviewed, so your not going to see it detailed as detailed."

Legislative Committee Chair on Finance Senator Ben Pangelinan says he is ready to take on the budget, including the budget of the various agencies that continue to say they have a lack of funding, adding, "We're going to take a look at what the experience is now, were the shortfall if there's any, were adjustments are being made and whether or not we need to reallocate certain portions of the revenues to meet those adjustments that are being made."

But Duenas is confident that they will crunch the numbers so no additional requests have to be made.  "There's no padding to it, its been our discipline for the last three years in our efforts to reduce the deficit that we keep our agencies to bare bones," she explained.

Duenas says there are no exceptions, as the island's public sector is still working to drastically reduce its deficit. She says this current budget will help bring the number down from $500 million to $200 million. While final numbers from the Budget Office are expected to reach the Legislature by this month, Governor Felix Camacho admits the recent controversy to meet the demands of the court appointed monitors for mental health will have some long term financial effects.

The island's chief executive said, "There's going to be a realization within the Guam Legislature that the territory of Guam is extremely under capitalized. In my seven-and-a-half years as governor and my time as senator, there's no fooling anybody. The mandates imposed upon the service agencies of GovGuam are far greater than our capacity to pay for it, and as generous as everyone wants to be in providing for everybody, government can't pay for everything."

While Camacho says GovGuam has come to a point of maxing out its capacity to borrow anymore money, Pangelinan says his committee will ensure the budget moves forward.

"Once we get all of those, we will look at the calendar and start scheduling all those hearing, we'll do our own internal analysis review, build all our spreadsheet, put them in place so that we can work with the budgets during the hearings," he said.

The budget hearings are expected to begin in late-April or early-May in an effort to have a final budget on the governor's desk weeks before the deadline.

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