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Budget bill passed

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Shortly after 6pm, lawmakers rose from the Committee of the Whole and voted on the budget bill. The vote was straight down party lines with 8-yes votes from the Democrats, 6-no votes from the Republicans and 1-excused absence.

Appropriations chair Senator Ben Pangelinan addressed some of the concerns raised by the governor over the budget bill provisions.

He says the substituted budget bill does include continuing appropriations for debt service and that it only authorizes the governor to utilize the existing authority for a line of credit for DOE and unified Judiciary merit bonuses. He further reiterates that the bill does "not lock in $7 million away" for tax refunds rather it prioritizes tax refunds by increasing the amount that the governor set aside for tax refunds instead of increasing government spending. Lastly, Pangelinan says the bill does provide flexibility and provides more funding for health and public safety than provided in the last fiscal year.

 "These barrages of propaganda by the governor are only a veiled attempt to portray the Legislature's budget in a negative light," Pangelinan says. "If the governor feels the revenues are too high, he could use his line-item veto authority to reduce appropriations, similar to how he line-item vetoed the appropriation in Public Law 32-56."

Minority leader Senator Tony Ada stated the Republican senators are unanimous in their opposition of the bill. While they acknowledge the many good intentions contained in the bill, they believe certain provisions render the bill "unrealistic and unworkable." The GOP senators have since urged Governor Eddie Calvo to follow through and veto the budget bill further offering to work with the chief executive and his financial team to craft an alternative budget bill that will meet GovGuam's budget needs "in a more responsible and workable manner." They have additionally offered to work with the democratic majority to find a compromise to their differences.

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