Lawmakers vote on tax refund bill - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Lawmakers vote on tax refund bill

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Bill 140, the Calvo Administration says, may purport to pay tax refunds but in reality would result in throwing GovGuam further down a financial abyss and leave government employees without a job.

Today the legislation went up for a vote by the 31st Guam legislature. One day after the Calvo Administration called Bill 140 "fiscally and financially irresponsible", lawmakers by majority, voted down the measure its author says is aimed at ensuring tax refunds are paid.

The bill was introduced by chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Senator Ben Pangelinan. He says currently the law requires deposits be made into an account to pay tax refunds the bill, he says, just adds an extra step. "What is additional to this is that the attorney general and the OPA in their respective capacities will make sure the money gets there."

Under the bill the Office of Public Accountability would do a monthly audit of deposits made versus the money received from taxes. The attorney general would then be able take action to make to ensure the deposits were made. For Senator Frank Blas, Jr. the bill was too heavy-handed, and that's why he voted against it.

He explained, "There were concerns in regards to basically we were handcuffing the governor with regards to the utilization of government resources, the funding, most especially if in case revenues projected are not met or are really low, coupled with the fact that there may be a disaster we have to deal with."

Adelup came out strong against the bill, warning of potential furloughs should it be enacted. The Administration added that the measure's built-in $10 million dollar line of credit would also exacerbate the government's current fiscal year $22 million shortfall, and could negatively impact the Government of Guam's credit rating.

In response to Adelup's assertion, Senator Pangelinan continues to hold on to his same argument. "I don't really understand their objections," he stated, "because the former chair of Ways and Means, Governor Calvo, fully knows this so you know he just wants to be able to take the money we set aside for refunds to pay for the Calvo SelectCare health insurance

Senator Tony Ada is another of the eight lawmakers who voted against Bill 140, telling KUAM News, "I think looking for other funding sources might be able to come up with a solution in paying the tax refunds, but when we are in essence keeping the governor from being able to keep the government in operations and to pay the vendors and other obligations that the government does have, it just makes us think a little bit harder about how we are going to do these things."

The six other senators who voted against the bill are Republicans Chris Duenas, Mana Silva Taijeron, Aline Yamashita, Sam Mabini and Democrat Senator Adolpho Palacios. As for Democrat Dennis Rodriguez, Jr., he passed twice, which constitutes a "no" vote.

While 140 tanked on session floor today, Senator Pangelinan is not giving up. Just before session ended, he moved to have Bill 140 be up for reconsideration during the next legislative calendar day. There were no objections to his motion and it was approved.

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