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Governor's bill met with turbulence

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - It was a bumpy ride for Bill 1-2s, legislation introduced by Governor Eddie Calvo who called senators into special session this morning to deliberate on. Even before Calvo's bill could get off the ground it was met with turbulence.  

"I really do think that this is premature," said Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz. "With the government going out for what looks like over $200 million in bonds we really should have a public hearing."

Cruz pointing to the fact that on Tuesday committee chair on appropriations Senator Ben Pangelinan had actually scheduled a public hearing on Bill 129 for August 6th, the legislation is substantially similar to the governor's legislation that senators were called into special session to discuss. Today. Senator Chris Duenas was a co-author of Bill 129 saying he understands Cruz's concern but his bill has been languishing in committee for months.

"I want to reiterate this was introduced since May 31st there's been ample time quite a bit of time actually between then and now to have a public hearing on this bill," he said.

"They cannot continue to do this where they tell us on the 11th hour they  want to do something and then by 11:30 they're saying it's impossible and  we're going to turn into pumpkins at 12 o'clock - they've known it since this morning this is no way to run government," said Cruz. "The fact of the matter is I maintain that 60 days is a long time particularly in that same 60 days within that same quarter we've seen an entire point I believe change in market rates."

Its' the change in the market that the airport and Guam Economic Development Authority are trying to take advantage of but need the Legislature's cooperation and authorization. Specifically they are looking to refund its 2003 revenue bonds - that's $135 million - and borrow $125 million in  new money for capital improvement projects.

The refinancing portion according to the Calvo Administration is expected to save GIAA $1.6 million annually. GEDA and the airport say the effort to refinance their revenue bonds began in February with dialogue with senators.  The two government entities need to issue a call notice to current bond holders by August 30th.  GEDA's Lester Carlson said, "Today provides us certainty today is a culmination of all the communications we have' had with just about every single office in this legislature regarding this intent of this bill at its heart and core is first and foremost the savings that can be obtained so we'd like the certainty today to proceed as opposed to waiting until the public hearing is held."

And GIAA executive manager Chuck Ada said, "And we did look forward to have a public hearing on this, but unfortunately again with the timelines we made our legislative rounds to seek support to have it actually move out of committee we were actually even told by numerous of this 32nd Guam Legislature to possibly seek the governor's assistance to possibly have this heard in a special session because of the timelines that are required."

But with a quarter of a million dollars total included in Bill 1-2s senators still questioned whether they could wait until Monday to get public input.

"We've not heard from those who are a part of the airport, the vendors who are there the airlines that are there do you have any letters of support from any of those?" asked Speaker Judi Won Pat. Ada said, "Madam Speaker, we actually have letters from every single signatory airlines in support of this effort."

According to Ada the airlines are actually excited to see the improvements. According to the legislation some of those projects include the construction of an international arrivals corridor, hold bag screening relocation, common use check in facilities, parking expansion, an interisland passenger facility, the replacement of the ARFF facility, upgrading the airports it and FMS, as well as enclose arrival tunnels. The term of the loan would be for 32 years from the date of issuance. The new funding would be paid through additional revenues generated from the new airport concessionaire contract.

GEDA and the airport are hoping senators pass the bill before next week's visit by ratings company's Moodys and Standard & Poors.  During those meetings they plan to make presentations on  their financial proposal.

Senators are currently going section by section through the legislation. You can read a copy on GuamLegislature.com.

Just before 6:30pm, Bill 1-2S passed. The vote was 8 yes 5 no and 2 excused absences.
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