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Bond removed from session

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - The time, energy and special addresses spent by the Calvo Administration to what was a step closer to issuing tax refunds to the people of Guam was put to a halt as the Guam Legislature decided to scrap the bond budget from today's budget session. As the governor's fiscal team requested for more time to compare apples to apples with Senator Ben Pangelinan's substitute bill, the people of Guam continue to wait for money they've been owed for some time now.

After spending the last several months promoting their plans for a biennial budget and $300 million bond to pay tax refunds by Christmas, both were removed when Senator Pangelinan announced the substitute version of Governor Eddie Calvo's Bill 145. Instead the substitute version is a single year budget focusing strictly on Fiscal Year 2012. 

Governor Calvo's deputy press secretary, Phil Leon Guerrero, says without the bond expect deeper cuts. "Absence any alternative solution from Senator Ben Pangelinan, the only way to satisfy the governor's mandate of paying the refunds that this government owes to the people of Guam is further cuts and depending on how soon we pay the refunds that will determine how much we cut from this government," he explained.

Since raising the idea of the budget bond in April, Adelup's goal was to end the practice of borrowing funding for tax refunds owed to the people to run the government. Senator Rory Respicio however agreed with Senator Pangelinan in that the Administration needed more detailed information in order to approve the Administration's bond proposal. Respicio added that the governor's budget didn't account for the $32 million worth of debt service.

"And so we just didn't' feel comfortable with that and the first thing that any legislature ought to do responsibly is set aside your debt service for that particular year," he said.

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Minority Leader Frank Blas, Jr. says he doesn't believe the whole bond issue has been scrapped completely but says his biggest concern with the substituted version was how they got to the figures for the projected revenues and the variances in comparison to the governor's bill. Although much stress has been put on paying tax refunds, he says there's actually more benefits to the bond borrowing measure. "So obviously there's some ways as far as the deferment of the some of the payment and the utilization of some of the revenues that are going to be captured as a result of the economic activity from the release of this money," he said.

For now, the Calvo Administration - along with senators - is being given more time to address the differences between the two bills. The administration hopes lawmakers will change their mind, with Leon Guerrero saying the bond would ultimately help restructure the government's debt and put an end to the 20-year long injustice of not paying tax refunds on time. "Borrowing is a serious deal but the fact of the matter is, we're borrowing anyway, we're borrowing right now in the backs of the people of Guam and we're paying interests on it everyday," he said.

While the Calvo Administration's team requested for more time to review the budget, the 31st Guam Legislature instead proceeded with going over some of the numbers trying to find the variances in the different revenue categories. Specifically there's a $3 million variance from the governor's projected General Fund revenue and the legislature's.

Lawmakers meanwhile recessed after 4 this afternoon giving all parties involved more time to digest the revised budget bill. Session resumes tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock.

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