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Lawmakers head back into session Tuesday

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - It's going to be another week of the budget battle as lawmakers head back into session Tuesday to push for another override of the governor's veto of the substitute budget bill. The island's elected leaders spent Sunday enjoying Labor Day during the annual picnic at the Ypao Beach Park.   

"Come Tuesday we will do the people's work," said Governor Eddie Calvo. Work that entails figuring out what to do about the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. Governor Calvo last week vetoed the democrat backed Substitute Budget Bill 145 and sent down his new budget bill which restored his $343 million bond to pay all past due tax refunds. Lawmakers were called into special session Friday and within five minutes his bill failed.

And like the governor's bill, at attempt to override SB145 failed as well. "So now we have to work together with our administration and with the Legislature to ensure that again we get a budget done, get a budget done before the end of the fiscal year. We don't leave those taxpayers behind," he said.

At this point for the Democrats getting it done requires changing the opinions of at least two senators that voted against SB145's passage. The original vote on the substitute budget was 8-7, in order for an override to be successful it requires ten votes, meaning two senators would have to change their vote, including a Republican that would have to switch sides. "It's not about any party affiliation, it's about coming together as policymakers to do the right thing for our people, too," said Senator Tina Muna Barnes.

But doing the right thing the Calvo Administration has argued is stop stealing from the people of Guam and pay out all that's owed in tax refunds, instead of 30% as contained in SB145 with Senator Ben Pangelinan's $180 million bond proposal. "We won't leave the taxpayers behind is so important to me. We do not leave the taxpayers behind," said the governor again.

Senator Rory Respicio said, "I know there's a lot of anxiety in our community, but what I don't like to see is the pinning up the tax fund recipient versus the GovGuam employee - the pubic sector versus the private sector…I'm not pitting anyone against anybody, those GovGuam workers are also owed tax refunds."

Respicio and the Democrats say when you take into consideration what's happening in the nation's capitol and Washington's plans to cut federal spending, SB145 is prudent but Governor Calvo says it's problematic. "People really need know there is a bond borrowing up to $120 million for tax refunds for 2009 and beyond for 2010, there are current provisions set aside for tax refunds. If we go on this course and the governor pays what he should be paying what should we should be current by the next fiscal year," he said.

Calvo said, "One thing that is for sure if the legislature was to pass that bill into law, two things would happen and because of that 50% offset diversion of the Gross Receipts Tax that thousands of GovGuam workers would be effected because of the severe crisis that would occur in this government and also thousands and thousands of tax payers would not get their refunds."

Lawmakers are scheduled to head back into regular session Tuesday, where another attempt at override will be on the floor.

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