Guam, Islands, Largely Left Out of PR Debt Relief Bill

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Guam and the outlying US territories would see little or no financial relief from a draft Puerto Rico debt restructuring bill, despite White House support for a more inclusive bill.

Washington, D.C. – Guam and other island lawmakers in Congress have fought for months to get at least what Puerto Rico may get in legislation to restructure its massive debt.

 

But that was not the case when House Natural Resources Republicans unveiled a second draft bill this week.

Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo argues Puerto Rico is not the only territory with financial problems. She says, “Guam and the other territories, while we are nowhere near the crisis that Puerto Rico is in, could very well be headed down that road, should these ‘fixes’ not  be addressed. So, thus I remain disappointed that the bill does not address issues, such as Medicaid, the EITC and government pensions.”
 
Bordallo and the other delegates wrote committee leaders last week, urging their islands get a better deal.  Bordallo and the CNMI’S Greg ‘Kilili’ Sablan cosponsored legislation earlier to fully fund the Earned Income Tax Credit in the territories.
 
Interior Assistant Secretary Esther Kia’aina recently offered Administration support to lift the island Medicaid cap and provide a cover-over tax reimbursement for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
 
Bordallo was considering whether to try to amend the Puerto Rico bill– The Congresswoman did cite one improvement from the bill’s earlier version, dealing with debt restructuring and oversight–
 
She explains, “I appreciate the language, that clarifies the other territories covered by this provision, must opt in to the control, through a vote of the legislature, and with concurrence of our governors.”
 
The earlier draft left it to Congress, alone, to decide if Guam and the other territories can restructure debt like Puerto Rico if they ever need to—raising concerns by Governor Eddie Calvo that Guam’s bond rating could suffer.
 
Separately, a House spending panel was wrapping up committee work on FY ’17 military construction and VA funding, including almost 249-million for MILCON projects on Guam, with funds for new housing at Andersen Air Force Base, a power upgrade from Harmon to Anderson, an Air Force Global Hawk Block 40 maintenance hangar, and an Air Force satellite communications facility.