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Calvo's bond proposal heard on session floor

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Governor Eddie Calvo called lawmakers into a third special session to discuss his new Bill 1-3-S. It's not really new, but another attempt to revive his original $343 million bond proposal to pay out all past due tax refunds.

Calvo thought everything was moving forward in a spirit of compromise, saying, "It took me by surprise." The Democrat majority late Wednesday afternoon during a second special session swapped out the contents of the governor's Bill 1-2-S with language contained in the newly-introduced Bill 304. Substitute Bill 1-2-S was passed by the Democrats, separating the bond from the budget. Said the governor, "If it is workable, I will sign it. If it's not workable, I will not."

While Calvo continues reviewing the new substitute bill, he isn't giving up hope in paying out all past due tax refunds. "We sent our bill to the Legislature," he explained, "we're hopeful we can move in a direction and finally put these past due tax refunds into ancient history."

Governor Calvo called lawmakers into a third special session today to discuss Bill 1-3-S, which is his latest version of his $343 million bond proposal. Republicans who have been pushing for this day since budget discussions began in August were finally glad to see the Administration finally being allowed to present its plan on the floor.

Minority Leader Senator Frank Blas, Jr. said, "I hope we find some common ground so that we can finally come to some consensus and finality with this issue."

Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz meanwhile felt it best to wait until January after Washington completes cuts to federal spending - actions he believes could impact Guam.  "We're right now barely able to make ends meet; any amount lost and we are really up a creek," he stated.

Senator Rory Respicio in the meantime said he'll sit back, be quiet and make the Administration work for the eight votes needed for the governor's $343 million bond proposal to pass.  "Because all of the questions I asked all of the answers that were given to the questions that I've asked has caused me to just say all we should borrow is $180 million," he said.

During special session, Karl Pangelinan, administrator for the Guam Economic Development Authority, broke down where the proceeds of the $343 million will go toward: $272.4 million for past due tax refunds, $20 million for COLA, $18.3 million for health insurance.

Likewise, governor's chief fiscal policy officer Bernie Artero stressed the need for the bond, telling the body that currently the government is facing a $million cash shortfall for this year, adding that the Administration is currently working on a stabilization plan that includes the bond, reorganization and downsizing. Artero said they are taking all factors into consideration including what may happen in Washington.

Governor Calvo in the meantime continues to make his plea to the Legislature, saying, "I just came from a funeral this morning and when you see an elderly woman crying, begging for her tax refund because her son has been evicted and she is angry at me - imploring the members of this legislative body to remember the roots, remember the grassroots. Remember who they serve and they serve the people of Guam."

Just after four o'clock session recessed until tomorrow morning at the request of Senator Respicio so more information on revenue projections and the ability to pay for the debt service in the future can be provided to the Legislature.

Commenting on the today's proceedings, Calvo wrote, "I'm very proud of my fiscal team. They answered every question posed to them and explained very well why this bond is needed. They always kept in mind the very essence of why we're trying to get this passed: to pay the people their overdue tax refunds and our man'amko the COLA." Governor Calvo added, "We've been waiting a very long time for the opportunity to answer senators' questions. Many of these concerns have festered. But, without the opportunity for public debate on the session floor on this proposal since April, tensions have grown. Now the senators can see the facts for themselves."

Also of note is that should the governor's Bill 1-3-S fail, Senator Ben Pangelinan has already introduced his new Bill 305, which essentially is his $180 million bond proposal that was included in vetoed Substitute Bill 145.

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