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Special session called for 2012 budget

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - After a long delay from the rain and meetings behind closed doors, lawmakers finally went into special session just after 4:30 Friday afternoon. And minutes later they went out of that special session. Now that Governor Eddie Calvo vetoed the Democrat-backed budget bill, it's heading back to the Legislature, which has been called in to special session by the governor to deliberate on his new budget that includes his $343 million bond proposal to pay out all past due tax refunds. 

In response, Speaker Judi Won Pat believes the manner in which Governor Calvo submitted the veto and call for special session was rather unfair and somewhat strategic in not giving the body enough time to deliberate an override. "It is no respect for the third branch, where there is this checks and balances," she told KUAM News. "And I felt he just didn't want to do it, he just wants to try and control not just the Executive Branch but the Legislature, and how we're going to move."

Governor Calvo stated that he vetoed the bill because it didn't address fully paying back tax refunds, contained a 50% lockbox provision forcing him to layoff about 2,000 GovGuam employees, and included quicksand revenues that aren't certain. He adds that Senator Ben Pangelinan's $180 million bond would have breached the debt ceiling providing even less than the earmarked $120 million in tax refunds that Pangelinan's bond proposal intended to pay back.

Won Pat added the new bill sent down the governor late Thursday was basically 90% of what senators passed last week but included the $343 million bond and "some innocuous amendments" that were taken out and didn't make much sense. "Like removing the combined purchase for text books. I mean, what is that really and to make it look like some changes in it when in essence it's just strictly the bond," she stated.

Minority Leader Frank Blas, Jr. says he wasn't surprised the governor followed through on his word to veto the substitute bill and send down a new one that included his original $343 million dollar bond  to pay back all past due tax refunds. He hopes the governor's fiscal team can once again makes a presentation on the numbers - one of his biggest concerns.

"There is some concern in regards to the revenues, the projections and how they got to that," he explained, "and show this bond borrowing would help not only provide tax refunds, but help in the collections of revenues necessary to run the government."

Quickly after the veto message was delivered to Adelup, the eight Democrats who voted for the budget sent a letter to their GOP counterparts hoping for their support for an override to avert a government shutdown that Won Pat says nobody wants. In order for that override to occur, the Democrats need two senators to change their mind. Said Blas, "I'm confident that the Republican minority will continue to stand strong with regards to its concerns and want its concerns addressed."

Meanwhile, Majority Leader Rory Respicio received a response from Chief Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco affirming his concern that a failed attempt to override the governor's veto of the Fiscal Year 2012 government budget bill could lead to a government shutdown. Additionally, Department of Administration Benita Manglona says as she was deposed today on the tax refund lawsuit, and hopes the legislature will pass the governor's $343 million bond plan to clear all refunds and not have to wait for a court order.

When lawmakers this afternoon convened in special session in less than ten minutes the governor's Bill 1-1(S) was placed in the Voting File and voted on, the vote was six for passage and seven against.  Democrats Tom Ada and Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. are currently off-island.

The governor's budget bill had failed.

Governor Calvo immediately issued a statement, saying, "They spent all day behind closed doors deciding whether the people should get their own money", adding, "they turned off the microphones. They hid from the public. They did not spend even one second considering the bond to pay all of the tax refunds. This is politics at its worst. It is insensitive to the people who are struggling and suffering."

Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio added, "That's not open government. That's not public service."

Immediately after the vote, lawmakers went out of special session and went back into regular session, at that time they moved to have the governor's veto of Substitute Budget Bill 145 (the Democrats' budget) to go up for a vote for the purposes of an override. The override failed, but the Democrats will try again next Tuesday.

In order for an override to occur a total of ten votes are needed, which the Democrats do not have right now.

Of note is that the Guam Association of Realtors was the latest of several local organizations to lend their support for Governor Calvo's bond plan.

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