Guam – Senator Ben Pangelinan is hailing the Guam Supreme Court’s Declaratory Judgement as a “landmark” opinion that “will once and for all prevent this governor and all future governors from taking from the people’s tax refund trust fund.”
The island’s high Court ruled that the Governor does not have the authority to withdraw monies from the Tax Refund Trust Fund “for purposes other than those prescribed, regardless of whether they are ‘advances’ to or from the Trust Fund.” Chief Justice Robert Torres wrote that the language of the law “clearly prevents transfers, expenditures, or pledges from the Trust Fund for any purpose other than those prescribed.”
Senator Pangelinan sponsored the resolution which sought the Supreme Court’s declaration.
In a release today, the Senator said the opinion “affirms the Legislature’s appropriations power” and its “authority to mandate that income tax receipts be set aside to pay tax refunds and restricted from the governor’s transfer or expenditure.”
He also states that “the governor needs to explain himself for using the people’s tax refund money in the amount of almost $50 million for government operations over the past three-and-a-half years.”
The Governor’s office has argued that the deposits and withdrawals from the Tax Refund Trust Account are merely accounting moves which are not in violation of the law and in response to the ruling yesterday, the Administration released its own statement saying:
“This is our response to the court ruling and to this law:
– Tax refunds are being paid on time for the first time in two decades.
– We were basically sued for paying tax refunds faster than the law required by fronting cash from the General Fund, paying tax refunds, then reimbursing the General Fund what it paid for tax refunds. The suit served no purpose, especially when the Legislature had two decades to sue previous governors for being years late in the payment of refunds.”
READ the release from Senator Pangelinan below:
PANGELINAN ISSUES STATEMENT ON TAX REFUND DECLARATORY JUDGMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (June 18, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan (D), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee) reacts to the Supreme Court Declaratory Judgment opinion filed by the Guam Legislature relative to the Income Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund.
“This is a landmark declaratory judgment opinion, the first in over a decade and will once and for all prevent this governor and all future governors from taking from the people’s tax refund trust fund that I had envisioned and created to protect the people from financial misuse,” declared Pangelinan.
The Supreme Court has affirmed the Legislature’s appropriations power and authority to mandate that income tax receipts be set aside to pay tax refunds and restricted from the governor’s transfer or expenditure.
For years, Pangelinan passed laws, passed budgets, and amended those laws and budgets to try to force governors to set aside income tax receipts every month in order to pay tax refunds.
“Governors ignored the law or found loopholes, believing their expenditures were more of a priority than prompt payment of tax refunds. With this decision, there will be prompt and monthly payments of tax refunds, and the people of Guam deserve no less,” explained Pangelinan.
“The governor needs to explain himself for using the people’s tax refund money in the amount of almost $50 million for government operations over the past three-and-a-half years, which represents almost 19,000 taxpayers who are still waiting—even up to today—for their tax refund payments. These types of actions may lead to deficit spending in FY 2013,” warned Pangelinan.
Pangelinan suggests that all taxpayers take time to review this opinion from the third and co-equal branch of government, for it is an opinion that stands by the people and for the people. “The truth about tax refunds has become increasingly clear with this opinion from the Supreme Court of Guam as well as the permanent injunction against the governor in the federal District Court of Guam.”
“When the legislature asserts its role as a co-equal branch with the power of appropriations and takes seriously its duty to check and balance the spending power of the executive branch, the people of Guam win,” concluded Pangelinan.