Legislature wraps up budget discussions; budget bill up for vote on Saturday

Senators of the 35th Guam Legislature voted to pass Substitute Bill No. 282-35 (LS) — the FY 2021 budget bill. (PNC file photo)

Senator Joe S. San Agustin, the appropriations chairman, and senators of the 35th Guam Legislature wrapped up discussions on Bill 186-35, the budget bill, last night.

The vote on the bill is scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 pm.

In a statement, Sen. San Agustin said he wants to thank the stakeholders who worked diligently to finalize Bill 186.

“After months of meetings and hearings, I believe everyone made a concerted effort to meet in the middle during this austerity period. Given our current financial conditions today, the result is a thoroughly deliberated, reasonable and balanced budget bill to fund our government next fiscal year.”

At least one senator, however, from San Agustin’s own political party, seems to disagree.

Senator Therese M. Terlaje, who chairs the health committee, said she attempted an amendment to cut the Guam Legislature’s budget in order to purchase medical equipment.

This, however, was quickly ruled out of order.

Because the FY2020 appropriation for the Guam Legislature is above the FY2019 levels, Senator Terlaje moved to cut $424,345 and appropriate the funding to the Guam Memorial Hospital for medical equipment and supplies including an anesthesia machine and dialysis machine. The amendment was co-sponsored by fellow Democratic senators Amanda Shelton and Sabina Perez.

“With all due respect, everyone is working hard. We have seen a reduction in salary below many people in the Government of Guam, and we’re all in need of more staff,” Terlaje said in a statement sent to the media. “However, when we look at many of our government agencies, like GMH and GDOE, who we’ve asked to tow the lines to 2019 levels with a reduced budget, we have to do the same in the Guam Legislature.”

According to Terlaje, her attempted amendment was ruled out of order by the chairperson since it was not offered while on the page for the Guam Legislature’s budget. A motion to overrule also did not receive enough senatorial votes.

While the amendment was not included in the budget bill, Terlaje says she plans to introduce legislation regarding this proposal.