Budget debated, $60M shortfall projected - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Budget debated, $60M shortfall projected

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Senators took to session floor on Tuesday and began hashing out a government spending plan for Fiscal Year 2011, a task that may include cuts as the government has a sizable shortage of funds.  Lawmakers were back in session today, this time to balance the all-important budget.  

While tackling an almost $60 million shortfall, Bureau of Budget Management & Research Director Bertha Duenas explained the difference from their initial revenue projection, saying, "Going in January, knowing what we know at the time we pegged the government's budget, the revenue projection, at $600 million.  And we have now reduced that to $50-$60 million less."

According to chair of the Committee on Appropriations, Senator Ben Pangelinan, that number has shrunk even further. "We are even a little bit below what the Administration had revised.  The Administration admin went from $586 million to $540 million, and the revenue expenditure level in the bill from current year projected revenues for 2011 will be about $535 million.  We're very cautious on how much to collect and how much to spend next year," he said.

A new spending plan was at the center of debate on the floor during today session. By law senators must pass a balanced budget by August 31 and turn it into the Governor's Office for review. 

Asked if he thought think additional cuts will be needed, Sen. Pangelinan said, "No, I think the budget fall inline with the current spending plan now."  But Duenas says depending on collections in the next couple of months more cuts may be coming.

"The bottom line is that when you are reducing the revenue by $50-$60 million, something is going to hurt," she stated.

Where the hurt is going to be felt the most remains to be seen. Senator Eddie Calvo, who projected the shortfall, says keeping departments such as education, public safety, and healthcare a priority is key.  "We just have to work collaborative as a body and focus on the common good and come out with a budget plan that is practical and accurate in terms of the of the revenues available and then focuses on those services that are so important to our people, healthcare making sure our hospital is fully equipped with resources and insuring that our public safety sector is equipped and manned as well, so that they can bring safety to our community," he commented.

Today was just the first day of the budget debate.  Lawmakers are going section by section of the revised spending plan, also known as Bill 439.

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