Governor slams latest version of budget bill - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Governor slams latest version of budget bill

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - After failing to meet Monday, lawmakers resumed the budget session this time discussing a revised substituted version. And while the new bill would fully implement the Hay plan and fully restore COLA payments among other provisions, Governor Eddie Calvo has called the measure "irresponsible" and "dead on arrival."

When asked how he felt about the governor saying the budget bill is full of empty promises, Senator Ben Pangelinan said, "Hmm..I wish he'd met with me. That's all."

And while it wasn't for a lack of trying, the appropriations chair was responding to Calvo threatening to veto the budget bill, a measure deputy press secretary Phil Leon Guerrero says would lead the government where it once was two years ago. "And so on its clear face, this is really an irresponsible budget filled with empty promises and the governor has decided that if major changes aren't made to bring this budget into something that is actually realistic, then the governor is going to veto it once it gets to his desk," he explained.

Despite being distributed late Monday evening, lawmakers went ahead and added the measure to session agenda. However Senator Chris Duenas objected to the motion, saying, "First of all, we wanted the same courtesy of being able to review for at least three to four days as we were doing in good faith negotiation. So at this point, it's a very disingenuous presentation that's currently being made."

Majority Leader Rory Respicio meanwhile says he's quite surprised by the governor's statements as well as the actions of all six Republican senators who voted against discussion on the measure. He adds it's Governor Calvo who is making the empty promises that are repeatedly stated over and over in press releases notably his support in paying the Hay raises. "So I'm hoping that calmer minds will prevail and the governor recognizes that this is a dream budget - dreaming not in terms of all these false hopes that he's doing in his press releases or saying that we're doing, but a dream budget where it gives him ultimate flexibility," he said.

While the Democrats may see it as a dream - the Calvo Administration evidently sees it as a reoccurring financial nightmare. Leon Guerrero shared, "And if this budget passes and this budget is allowed to become law, then we will be going one step in that direction of a $500 billion deficit, again this is exactly how we got into the mess: with empty promises."

One of the biggest concerns raised by the Administration is that this budget bill pretends there's enough money to pay for everything at its full level such as cost of living allowances. The Administration supports a phased in approach, with Leon Guerrero saying, talking to former senator Ted Nelson, "The governor is supportive of raising the COLA to $1,400 because that is what we can afford. But...there are things in this budget that are just a Christmas wish list."

Dozens of retirees, including Frank Hill were on hand at the Guam Legislature this morning. They were provided a copy of the governor's press release about his concerns about the new budget.  "That's an insult what he did, putting that thing out, Dead on Arrival," said Hill. Leon Guerrero said, "What we're trying to say Mr. Hill, is that the COLA is one issue a part of this whole budget, the budget as whole is a bad budget, the budget as a whole is dead on arrival. It's not to say that trying to restore the COLA or trying to bring the COLA as close to fully restored as we can afford is dead on arrival."

"We don't want no close to, we want him to fully restore it," said Hill. "But we can only afford so much," Leon Guerrero said.

The new budget bill appropriates $11.6 million for COLA or $1,800 per retiree.

Meanwhile, among other concerns raised by the Administration with the new budget

- There is no payment of debt service
- Overinflated amounts entered into the tax refunds provision
- Cuts to funding for health agencies
- The use of a line of credit to pay debts to the Judiciary and DOE, something Leon Guerrero notes that the last time GovGuam did such a thing, the government was placed on credit watch.

And with delays in session over the past few days, lawmakers were able to finish discussing all 107 pages of the new budget bill about six hours after it was added to the agenda this morning.

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