Override or new budget bill? Legislature mulls Governor’s alternative proposal

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

Speaker Tina Muna-Barnes has called for a special session tomorrow, Monday, at 10 am, upon the request of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.

The governor, on Friday, requested the special session after vetoing Substitute Bill 282-35, the fiscal year 2021 budget bill.

It is now known, however, whether the Legislature will work to have a new budget bill, as what the governor has requested, or whether it will just override the governor’s veto.

Senator Joe S. San Agustin, the chair of the legislature’s appropriations committee, has said he was disappointed that the governor vetoed the bill, pointing out that Bill 282-35 was passed by the legislature after months of deliberation and weeks of debate.

“The governor offered an alternative to Bill 282. My colleagues and I must come together to review the governor’s proposal and decide on how to proceed. I am confident that we will be able to come to a consensus and provide our people with the resources and services needed without disruption in the new fiscal year,” San Agustin stated.

Senator Therese Terlaje, however, has called for an override of the governor’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 veto, pointing out that Substitute Bill 282-35 was passed almost unanimously by a vote of 13-2 after three full weeks of deliberation.

“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,” Terlaje said over the weekend.

The senator, who also chairs the Legislature’s health committee, 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.

None of the other senators so far have expressed their positions on whether they would support an override of the governor’s veto or consider the governor’s alternative budget proposal.

Guam GOP

Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Guam said the governor should stop playing games with the budget.

The GOP said sending daily messages mocking and dismissing a budget bill supported by a bi-partisan group, including her loyal senators, is nothing more than a tantrum.

“It is abundantly clear that the governor and her administration are not content with the spending authority being granted by this legislature. They want to spend MORE taxpayer dollars next Fiscal Year to assure that political patronage is prioritized when it comes to political hires, as well as rewarding supporters with contracts. The question we all should be asking is ‘What alternative universe is this administration living in where they assume that our economy is where it was 2 years ago before they entered office?’ Here is a simple message to the Governor and her fiscal team: ‘LOOK AROUND YOU!’ Over 35,000 island residents have lost their jobs, and your policies are forcing small businesses to close their doors permanently. Our tourism market is unfortunately dead, and there are no solutions on the table by this administration, when it comes to economic diversification,” the Guam GOP stated.

“The question now is, which one of her “loyal lawmakers” will support the veto and thus support the Governor and happily hand over her demands, and which ones will face the reality that while Bill 282-35 is far from a great budget bill, it is closer to the reality of our economic situation,” the Republican Party added.