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Democrats pass substitute bill

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - The governor's new budget bill was moved to the Second Reading File during special session, and then evidently out the door.

After days of closed-door meetings and caucuses, lawmakers finally hit the floor of the legislature for special session, but while the public thought they were going to discuss Governor Eddie Calvo's new Bill 1-2-S, which he called "a compromise". Instead, Senator Rory Respicio moved to substitute the governor's budget bill with a new one just introduced today, Bill 304. The Democrat majority backed Bill 304, as it essentially removes any plans for bond borrowing and specifically appropriates for operations.

The Democrats say it's the best alternative to keep the government from shutting down. The idea is to introduce legislation for a bond to pay past due tax refunds later. Chairperson of the Committee on Appropriations Senator Ben Pangelinan said, "Let us now settle all the government agencies, and if we will continue to work then on how do we settle trying to maximize our ability to access debt and bonds to give our taxpayers their refunds let us continue to work on that and not continue to place our community in anxiety without knowing what's going to happen over the next couple of weeks and things, which could throw things here and there."

Senator Chris Duenas was visibly upset with what transpired, considering all 14 senators signed a letter to the governor last night expressing their concerns with his new budget. They received his response today, with Duenas saying this "is sad", adding he's not even sure whether it's legal to be discussing Bill 304 when the governor called special session to specifically discuss Bill 1-2-S.

He said, "Whether we're irritated, whether we don't like it, whether we don't care for the governor asking or compelling us to discuss his bill, whether we like it or not - we gutted his legislation. Didn't even debate it. I find that disgusting."

In response to the Legislature's reaction, Governor Calvo issued the following comment:

"We feel we've made a good faith effort to discuss the concerns of the legislature, and we have been hoping for the same consideration. I will say that this latest substitution does not appear to reflect such an attitude. I remain hopeful that more reasonable proposals will come during the ensuing discussion. All this administration has ever wanted to do is pay the people their tax refunds, and now, for our man'amko, their COLA. I just can't understand why there is so much politics keeping this from happening. These are our people-the people we swore to serve, the people we swore to help. This latest substitution does not appear to resolve any of these concerns in any sort of practical way."

The bill ultimately passed.

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