Minority Leader Will Castro has taken Democratic Sen. Joe San Agustin to task for disregarding the legislative standards of procedure for sending bills to the floor.
Guam – Castro specifically objected to San Agustin’s attempt to put his Bill 4-35 on the session agenda without a corresponding committee report.
The bill seeks to clarify the additional tax levy on real property improvements valued at $1 million or more.
“Off the bat, I expressed my concerns with the body and the sponsor of the bill that did not make it on the committee on rules agenda last Thursday,” Castro said.
“In addition to that, there was an attempt to introduce the bill on to the session agenda yesterday without a committee report, but the motion was defeated — thankfully.”
Castro finds no justification to hasten the bill, given a budget surplus from fiscal 2018.
“Now I’m not a financial guru but if people are telling us that— depending on who you talk to —there’s a $3.5 million to $13.5 million, or if you go to Governor Calvo’s earlier reference in the media of a $20 (million) to $25 million cash surplus, we can do the math,” Castro said. “Let’s say we don’t pass it and there’s a $9 million cash shortfall; if we don’t pass this, but you still got $19 million, here maybe it’s $4 (million), and we still have the first and second quarter to finish for the remainder of the fiscal year, so why are we in a rush to provide money when there’s already an excess amount of cash?”
However, the potential tax increase was overshadowed by the manner in which San Agustin attempted to get bill on the session agenda.
“The committee report and the session agenda itself is a tool to notify the general public, especially the voters and those who are impacted, that the Legislature is about to take action and vote on a tax increase without them having known that at least 24 hours prior,” Castro said.
The Republican senator cautioned the legislative leadership against setting aside the house standing rules.
If the motion to get Bill 4-35 on the agenda was adopted, Castro said, “that basically communicates to the entire world, the listening audience, that in the first 90 days we are setting aside the rules that we wrote and we adopted for ourselves in the very first session of the 35th Guam Legislature.”
The minority leader said should Bill 4-35 made it to the session agenda, he would present three sources of information that indicate a cash surplus from fiscal year 2018.
Whether or not the government is facing a shortfall, Castro said he is not necessarily against taxes or fees — as long as these are imposed only after all cost-saving means are exhausted.
He therefore wants to postpone any tax hikes until the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration sets a clear direction for the government.