Democrats taking aim again against Adelup - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Democrats taking aim again against Adelup

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - The battle between Adelup and the Democrats in the Guam Legislature continues. The latest from the front line: accusations from the vice speaker that the Calvo Administration has been caught in a $10 million lie.

Vice Speaker BJ Cruz says the Calvo Administration isn't telling the truth as he alleges the Administration has been caught in an untruth. "And Troy (Torres) was able to say $2.9 million had been granted. It was only $2.9 million but that was actually all that had been as of that date probably had actually been redeemed," he said. "That the truth of the matter is (Rev & Tax) John (Camacho)'s FOIA response as of February 28, he had granted $13.3 million worth of tax credits to six landowners."

Cruz says based on documents from Rev & Tax, the Administration authorized $13.3 million to six former Layon land property owners as of the end of February. He says that's a large margin of error of more than $10 million over the governor's $2.9 million estimate on March 7. In the middle of the controversy is director of communication Torres, who responds. "Those are two different figures, he's talking about the $2.9 million in tax credits paid or transferred those were the tax credits that were redeemed the $13 million that he's talking about are tax credits that were authorized, those were not tax credits that were redeemed," he said.

The Tax Credit in Lieu of Cash Payment Program was enacted into law in 1977. It provides tax credits to a landowner whose real property had been acquired by the Government of Guam when it cannot make cash payment due to the unavailability of funds.   The government as we reported is under a court order to pay Layon landowners $26 million, but with interest accruing at $100,000 a month that's climbed to about $30 million.

DOA director Benita Manglona told KUAM they decided to use the program after looking at the interest that kept growing. She said the credits were issued in order to prevent taxpayers from being liable for even more.

Torres defends Adelup hasn't done anything illegal. The over-30-year-old law allows landowners, not just the Layon landowners, to avail themselves of this means of payment.

He explained, "Actually the law says that when the Government of Guam has an obligation to land owners for land they have taken, from land owners - that's as though the Government of Guam went to you and went to your mother and father's place and took their land away and refused to pay them fair market value of it in a case like that, the law, that the legislature passed years ago says that the Government of Guam shall compensate landowners with these tax credits when cash is not available."

Cruz agrees that issuing tax credits isn't illegal adding when he read the Office of Public Accountability report from 2007, he understood that the program was dormant and regrets not taking up the recommendation to repeal the law at the time. "I'm not saying there was any illegal activity, I'm saying that we can and should of repealed it and the other is we should have been made apprised of how much was going out," he said.

Torres adds there are existing authorizations under the law and if the Legislature doesn't want these to be legal mechanisms to make payments then it's up to lawmakers to make the changes.  "We would hope that if they were going to repeal that law, they would need to provide the administration with another solution to pay down obligations."

Cruz happens to be the co-author of legislation to suspend existing tax credit laws and revoke tax credits issued under the Tax Credit In Lieu of Cash Payment Program. He says he doesn't have a problem with coming up with solutions to pay down the government's obligations.

"Let the legislature make the determination, let us appropriate that and put it in the budget," he stated.

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