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Senators begin session with substitute budget bill

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Less than 24 hours after a substituted budget bill was introduced, lawmakers commenced the first day of session on the budget for the next fiscal year.  

Appropriations chairman Vice Speaker BJ Cruz calls it conservative yet responsible, saying, "I want to assure everybody that every warm body that is currently in the government has been appropriated for in this budget." And Tuesday the substitute budget bill for Fiscal Year 2016 was officially presented on session floor. According to Cruz, the budget proposal had to be changed because of a deficit in the 2014 budget year he says was acknowledged by the Calvo Administration in April along with a recent FY 2014 audit and cumulative General Fund deficit of $59.6 million.

"I was compelled as the appropriations chair to make sure that the first thing we were going to take off the top is $13.5 million to address that, and that is the 2% of the anticipated revenue," he explained. Cruz says part of the five-year forecast from the Bureau of Budget Management & Research listed a deficit between 2014 to 2017 and hopefully would be extinguished by 2018.

Cruz meanwhile says while the substituted version revenue report section is almost the same, the Office of Finance did challenge the administration's budget proposal on the sections for business privilege tax and corporate taxes. He says because the $37 million drop in the budget, the committee had to go back and figure out where to find savings. So instead of 498 new government hires proposed, this substitute budget instead would create a different vacancy pool only for public safety needs specifically for entry level police officer, corrections officers and the Guam Fire Department. 

The Governor's Office meanwhile say they only received the bill last night and are currently reviewing. However in an interview on Monday, Governor Eddie Calvo did say he hoped the budget presented earlier this year would remain intact adding he believed the revenue estimates were "dead on accurate". The chief executive stated, "I look forward to a very speedy and thorough budget process and look forward to working with the committee and the legislature in passing a bill before the end of August so that we can properly fortify critical services for the people of Guam."

A budget must be passed and enacted before the new fiscal year starts on October 1.

In a press release today, Senator Brant McCreadie thanked the vice speaker for including the provisions to hire more police officers. The senator introduced bill 78 earlier this year mandating a police recruitment cycle for at least 40 near police cadets over a span of five years beginning in FY 2016.

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