Override of Governor’s budget veto urged

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

At least one senator has called for an override of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s budget bill veto.

The governor, on Friday, vetoed Substitute Bill No. 282-35 (LS) and called for session on Monday for senators to discuss her alternative budget bill.

But Sen. Therese Terlaje is calling for an override of the governor’s veto.

“I write to request your action as Speaker to call the Legislature into session as early as possible in order that we can properly consider an override on vetoed Bill 282-35, As Substituted, the FY2021 Appropriations Bill, notwithstanding the objections of the Governor,” Terlaje said in a letter sent to Speaker Tina Muna Barnes.

Terlaje pointed out that Substitute Bill 282-35 was passed by a vote of 13-2, after three full weeks of deliberation.

“In the Governor’s veto message, she also calls the Legislature into special session on Monday to consider a different budget bill that would increase overall FY21 expenditures by $7 million. As you know, we are unable to consider an override of Substitute Bill 282-35 during that special session and would need to be in a regular session to consider an override. Because of the time required to make the call to session, I request you make that call in advance of the special session to prevent undue delay in case the Governor’s new bill is not adopted,” Terlaje said.

She added that the Governor’s new bill has not yet had a public hearing and several
attempts to add $7 million or less to the revenue estimates in Substitute Bill 282-35 failed.
“The sooner we can decide the FY21 budget, the better for those trying to plan for their agencies. While I agree with the Governor that we can and must do more for public health, increasing revenue projections and allowing increased overall government expenditures by $7 million at this time are not our only options,” said Terlaje who also chairs the Legislature’s health committee.

As adopted, Terlaje said that Bill 282-35, as Substituted, already allows for review and adjustment of revenues at the end of December based on actual collections. She said it also allows for the transfer of $27 million from non-critical agencies to critical agencies like the Department of Public Health and Social Services without delay if that is needed
before December.

“We must hold revenue projections to a reasonable level. According to the Office of Finance and Budget, the current projections in Substitute Bill 282-35 are quite optimistic. We know that the Tourist Attraction Fund, for example, was inflated by $5 million above what GVB was predicting from its projection of 400,000 visitors and the amount provided by the administration for the Section 30 revenue amount was overestimated by $3 million,” Terlaje said.

She added: “The recent spike in cases and corresponding mitigation has also increased the uncertainty of business recovery. We must hold our spending down to the critical agency needs, so that we can try to fund outright the growing food, housing, and safety needs of the families outside of government employment, and the approximately $15 million increase in GovGuam health insurance contract costs for FY21 that were not fully incorporated into the agency budgets in Substitute Bill 282-35.”