Agencies billed for $12 million - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Agencies billed for $12 million

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The Department of Administration is putting several autonomous agencies on notice to pay up. The agency is hoping to get close to $40 million in much-needed revenue.

"We have sent a billing to the Guam Port Authority already of about $12 million and we will be billing the other agencies that are listed in the law," said Benita Manglona. The acting director of the Department of Administration is using the budget law crafted by the 24th Guam Legislature and signed by then-governor Carl Gutierrez to bill the Port Authority of Guam, the Guam International Airport Authority and the Guam Power Authority.

Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairperson Simon Sanchez told KUAM News, "This law apparently has been on the books 10-15 years and has never been applied. but I guess now the Executive Branch wants to apply it, so we got apparently 10-15 years of invoices that total up to $12 million."

According to Public Law 24-14, the Guam Power Authority, the Port and GIAA were supposed to pay $3.5 million annually or $857,000 each. The money was then supposed to be deposited into what the law created: an Autonomous Agencies Infrastructure Collections Fund. Unfortunately, the only thing is that the Fund's been collecting is dust.

According to Manglona, that's about to change. "We are looking at all source of funding to the General Fund," she speculated. "We are trying to collect everything that we can collect to the General Fund."

Sanchez said, "So we're researching the law. We'll start talking with doa. What we're not sure of is how fast do you want this $12 million, if you've waited 15 years to bill us, can you wait 15 years to get paid?"

Manglona says its money the government needs, noting, "There will be good use of those funds, so it will be additional funding for the General Fund." Sanchez said, "It seems like they're trying to balance their fiscal challenges on the backs of ratepayers who really should be paying for things that affect them directly, and it's a time where it's very difficult for ratepayers. They don't have this money so we'll have to see where this goes."

The A.B. Won Pat International Airport meanwhile believes it's highly doubtful that agency will pay the invoice. GIAA Executive Manager Mary Torres says officials are aware of the law, but she believes it's questionable whether the airport actually has to pay for it since it's not something that is consistent with their grant assurances and bond indentures. Torres says staff are currently looking for a legal opinion that was issued in the past outlining the airport's position on this matter so that the issue can be put to bed once and for all.

In the meantime, it's worth noting that in the same law that mandates autonomous agencies pay up. It also prohibits these same agencies from raising rates to recover their contributions to the Fund.

We should also note the law did require the former Guam Telephone Authority to contribute to the fund - but GTA is no longer an autonomous agency of the Government of Guam.

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