Governor's Office responds to Legislature's opening brief - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Governor's Office responds to Legislature's opening brief

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - The first of several briefs were filed last week over the Legislature's Democrat majority lawsuit over the use of funds from the Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund.

While the Legislature's opening brief continues to claim the governor has violated Guam law, the Administration responds saying it not only has met the obligation of the law but is exceeding it.   

In his opening brief submitted Friday on behalf of the Democrat majority in the Guam Legislature, Attorney John Terlaje argues that despite a clear mandate, Governor Eddie Calvo has violated Guam law. The Democrat majority through Resolution 312 has requested the Supreme Court to determine whether money in the Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund can be used for other purposes other than tax refunds.

Phil Leon Guerrero said, "After reading the brief filed for the declaratory judgment, I think the administration can remain confident in its policies that it has been doing to pay tax refunds."  Attorney Terlaje argues Governor Calvo has expended the funds from the trust fund to make unauthorized payments on other General Fund and agency-specific obligations. Deputy press secretary Leon Guerrero responded, saying, "I don't think what's important to the people of Guam are specifics of accounting measures and past-through and jargon, I think what the people are being concerned about are tax refunds actually being paid and the clear answer to that is yes."

Terlaje says the governor is still in violation of the law despite thinking he has discretion to disregard the law as long as he finds a way to pay refunds in a timely manner. Leon Guerrero instead says Senator Ben Pangelinan is advocating that all the Administration can use to pay tax refunds are funds solely from the refund reserve account. if that's the case, Leon Guerrero says the people of Guam will be waiting longer for their refund.

"The governor shouldn't believe that you should be waiting longer he feels that if there's money in any account whether it be the General Fund or the refund reserve account or any other account that can pay tax refunds, we'll pay them," he said.

And while Terlaje argues that the setting of fiscal policy is a legislative power not an executive one, Leon Guerrero questions what was actually done prior to this administration. "Like I mention, this refund reserve account hasn't been properly implemented since the Governor, refunds haven't been paid since the Governor to the level and timeliness that the governor has paid it for anyone to question the governor's commitment to paying tax refunds, I think is sort of misguided," he said.

The question remains though has Governor Calvo been violating the law as argued numerous times in the opening brief? "We don't believe we have been violating the law at all the law says that a fixed amount of money needs to be deposited into the refund reserve account, the law says that based on that fixed amount of money, that money should be paid for tax refund if you look at what was actually deposited into the account, if you look at how much in refunds were actually paid, it's clear the governor hasn't only met the obligation but actually exceeded the obligation of the law," he said.

Terlaje was unavailable for comment today whereas Pangelinan has refused to return KUAM's calls. While briefs supporting the position of the Legislature or not supporting either party are due this Friday, Leon Guerrero says the governor's legal counsel will be formulating a rebuttal due to the court on March 21. 

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