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Governor amends executive order

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Currently faced with a $348 million deficit, the Calvo Administration's supplemental authorization act and a biennial budget are before lawmakers for review.  This week both will undergo significant scrutiny as well as representatives from the Department of Administration during an oversight hearing aimed at getting the true financial picture of the government.

The governor is hoping a commission suggested by Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz will not only help create a spirit of cooperation, but a mechanism to find solutions to the Government of Guam's chronic cash crisis. But not everyone is ready to jump on the bandwagon.

Hoping it will be the driving force behind solving the government's financial problems, Governor Eddie Calvo today amended his executive order that created the Fiscal Responsibility and Tax Refund Commission. While he seeks appointments from the business and academic communities from Speaker Judi Won Pat and two members from Minority Leader Senator Frank Blas, Jr., the governor has also appointed four Democrat lawmakers to sit on the Commission - Senators Judi Guthertz, Adolpho Palacios, Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. and one of the Administration's biggest critics, Finance and Committee chairman Senator Ben Pangelinan.

Said Calvo, "I'm inviting in as a member chairman Pangelinan; I do believe that his participation is important, so critical in ensuring that the legislature and the administration work with openness and transparency in dealing with issues not only with our shortfalls in the current year, but also our long-term strategic plan in the biennial budget and of course also working down this terrible deficit that we currently find ourselves in."

The governor believes the commission will not only work together to fix the government's financial problems, but also pay residents their tax refunds by December.

Senator Pangelinan reacted to his appointment saying thanks but no thanks, noting, "As chairman (of the Special Economic Service Group) I would like to concentrate my work on serving with these fine individuals and then maybe dovetail the work of the commission, which is a legislatively and statutorily established commission."

The Special Economic Service Group includes the Office of Finance & Budget director, the Public Auditor, BBMR, Rev & Tax, Department of Administration and GEDA directors, and the chief economists of the Department of Labor and the Bureau of Statistics & Plans. "So rather than diverting my focus to this new entity, I'd like to stay on and stay focused on the work of this and maybe send it up to the commission and then they can have some opportunity to review some of the recommendations we're making," Pangelinan added.

The senator admits though that the Special Economic Service Group hasn't met this year yet, but normally meets once a quarter.

The governor meanwhile has called for the first meeting of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission this Wednesday morning - just a day before the Administration's fiscal policy team is scheduled to discuss the supplemental authorization request and the Fiscal Year 2012 budget.  The finance chair is specifically looking for detailed budgets for the line agencies, with Pangelinan noting, "I think they're being changed because what was submitted earlier, when we look at the numbers, they change from what was submitted earlier, so why did they change and what was the purpose of changing those numbers?"

The governor meanwhile says his fiscal team will respond to the concerns and ensure openness and transparency with the finances of the government, admitting there have been some technical errors but the bottom line results remained the same. "I'm hopeful that in this oversight hearings, they don't get clouded, you know how it is don't cloud the trees with the forest. It's about not pointing fingers at anyone saying, 'You forgot to cross your T's and dot your I's'. It's about coming together and working in good faith with each other," he explained.

"So I'm asking them to give us the benefit of the doubt, give my administration the benefit of the doubt let's work together."

The public hearing on the supplemental authorization request and the Fiscal Year 2012 budget is scheduled for 9 o'clock this Thursday morning.  The Department of Administration oversight hearing meanwhile is scheduled for two o'clock that afternoon.

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