Moylan: hike gaming taxes, roll back others

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Sen. James Moylan (R)

Guam – Call it 2020 foresight, or call sin taxes unfair, but if Asst. Minority Whip James Moylan (R) gets his way, the 35th Legislature and the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio Administration could count on more revenue from local liberty machines to help fund Guam Memorial Hospital, public health, highway infrastructure, and Veterans Affairs in the bare bones era of the Trump Tax Cuts.

The freshman lawmaker told Newstalk 57 morning host Patti Arroyo on Tuesday that despite the island’s moral, institutional, and legal struggles over whether and how many gaming machines should or should not be licensed, that’s a discussion for the newly elected attorney general. And that time is of the essence when it comes to sufficiently taxing game rooms’ lucrative revenue stream to help meet unfunded mandates.

“Do we have enough of these devices registered, since then in the past 17 years, that would support a larger revenue with the gradual increase in the tax?” Arroyo asked.

“Uh, probably not…the question of whether it’s legal or not legal, I think this could probably push the closure of cases,” Sen. Moylan said. “What are we actually going to do? If it’s going to be legal—that’s something that [Attorney General] Leevin Camacho and I’d like to discuss. Where are we gonna go? Are we gonna go forward or not?”

Moylan’s Bill No. 17-35 (COR) would place electronic monitors on gaming devices to make certain each machine’s full receivables are counted and that the Dept. of Revenue and Taxation’s collectors and enforcers are able to round up the Treasury’s full dues.

“It was inconsistent of the amount of money that was coming in, and that’s what Bill 17 was to do–not only establish that the gaming devices are properly monitored, but also increasing the fee of the taxes,” Moylan said.

“Currently, it’s at four percent. And then in 2019 we’re looking at a ten percent. So that’s six percent increase. [Then] up to 12 percent. Then after that up to 14 percent. Nationally, it’s still below the average taxes–an average of 15 to 20 percent.”

A closer look at the math shows that the leap from four to ten percent is actually a 150  percent tax increase. And the longer-term increase from four to 14 percent is actually a 250 percent increase on gaming machines by calendar year 2021.

With his gaming tax hike and enforcement measure, Moylan hopes to divide the increased revenue take among Guam Memorial Hospital, Dept. of Public Health and Social Services, the Territorial Highway Fund, and the Office of Veterans Affairs.

No word yet on whether any candidates who accepted gaming industry money for their campaigns will support any tax increase on gaming devices.

Meanwhile, Moylan is also proposing to roll back last year’s four-cent-per-gallon fuel tax hike as well as the recent 25 percent business privilege tax increase. He’s also proposing to exempt small Guam Product Seal businesses from up to $1,000 dollars in BPT. Meanwhile, Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee (D) and others have introduced legislation to exempt small businesses from paying gross receipts on the first $50,000 earned.