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Both parties working to resolve budget

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - While a budget has yet to be passed and signed into law, it isn't entirely hopeless as it appears both sides of the aisle are working together to possibly reach a compromise.

In the last week, the Guam Legislature passed the amended substituted budget bill straight down party lines. Governor Eddie Calvo eventually vetoed that bill, introduced his own version and called lawmakers into special session. That budget bill was voted down, again straight down party lines.

"At this point, there seems to be an impasse," said director of communications for Adelup Troy Torres. But he adds he's counting on past experiences such as two years ago when lawmakers were in a deadlock over the tax refunds bond. "But then when you started to get a dialogue going between Republicans and Democrats you started to see that there were Democrats who were willing to compromise with the Republicans; Republicans willing to compromise with Democrats."

In fact today, Senator Tina Muna Barnes sent the Calvo Administration a letter stating her concerns over the budget addressing critical areas that to her would be necessary in order to possibly get the budget through. "I cannot find it in my heart to compromise in the retirees and their COLA," she said.

Senator Barnes also notes concerns with provisions related to the Mayor's Council funding along with the Guam Visitor Bureau's budget - both of which she is the oversight chair. Ultimately Barnes says this is an issue that should be beyond party lines. "This is our responsibility and we need to make sure that a budget is passed and I want to make sure to the governor knows that these are the concerns that I have and we need to work together for the greater good of the community and not just our interested ideas of what should be done," she said.

Torres meanwhile says these are issues the Administration can work with in order to reach a middle ground, noting, "Cooler heads can prevail this time around and we can look toward other senators in the Democratic caucus as well, like Senator [Rory] Respicio and other senators in the Democratic caucus to see if we can come to a compromise that in the best interest of the people and doesn't break the bank."

And when asked whether providing full restoration of COLA for retirees would be part of the compromise, Torres says if that's what it's going to take to get a budget through, the Administration is willing to engage in the conversations...again. "We have to be careful and deliberate, and if things are going to be raised to a certain level it needs to be taken from somewhere else so where is that somewhere else and that's the importance of the dialogue and the conversation between the Democrats and Republicans to come to a bipartisan solution," said Torres.

Minority Leader Tony Ada meanwhile tells KUAM News that he met with appropriations chair Senator Ben Pangelinan briefly today to find out how to move forward in passing the budget. He says the ideas weren't too far apart adding the Office of Finance and Budget is actually looking at the governor's original budget proposal again.

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