San Agustin to Governor: Where did the $35.6 million general fund surplus go?

Sen. Joe S. San Agustin (PNC file photo)

Senator Joe S. San Agustin, the chairman of the Legislature’s appropriations committee, is asking Adelup where $35.6 million in general fund surplus went.

On Aug. 28, the Office of Public Accountability (OPA) released the Fiscal Year 2019 Audit Report, reporting that the government of Guam’s general fund ended FY19 with a surplus of $35.6 million.

Guam law mandates that the use of all unappropriated general fund revenues collected more than appropriations shall be to liquidate obligations for refunds, earned income tax credits, and prior years’ vendor payables.

Immediately after the OPA report was released, the governor’s office issued a release indicating the surplus was being applied to the deficit which was running at $82 million as of FY2019. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero even held a news conference touting the results of OPA’s audit. This was also presented during the Legislature’s Committee of the Whole discussion on the FY21 Budget Bill.

While it is allowable to use the surplus funds toward the payment of past years’ payables, San Agustin is asking who and what was paid?

“Why could we not use this to directly assist our people during these most difficult times? This is what we are asking the office of the governor to answer,” the senator said.

During these most challenging times, San Agustin said thousands of our people are experiencing little to no employment due to the governor’s executive orders that shutdown non-essential businesses.

“These same individuals wonder how they will put food on their tables to feed their families. How will they pay their bills that are piling up and do not have work since their employers have closed their doors? How will they return to work and manage caring for their children who are learning from home? Will they return to work and how soon? Without work, they will have nothing to make their families whole,” San Agustin said.

He added that while the governor has opted to exercise her authority to use CARES Act funds to supplant costs the government incurs due to this pandemic, what she hasn’t done was provide the people with an update on where the almost $1.6 billion in federal monies have been spent or why it is still sitting in an account when thousands of residents are experiencing additional hardship due to this second PCOR1 declaration that has caused more without an income over the last month.

Although the Department of Labor has worked hard to ensure the processing of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, San Agustin said the deadline for anyone who is affected by this current shutdown is ineligible to apply as the deadline has passed and this may still leave thousands without an income to support their families.

“We are asking Governor Leon Guerrero to use the FY19 surplus to get tax refunds out sooner to assist the families who do not have the privilege of a savings account as many have depleted this since the start of the shutdowns in March or to those who may have been furloughed or laid-off altogether,” San Agustin said.

He added that these surplus funds may also be used as the 25% local match for the expanded PUA program that Governor Leon Guerrero committed to several weeks ago.

In addition, San Agustin said the FY20 Budget Law 35-36, mandates a $10 million appropriation from the FY19 unappropriated revenues to the Guam Memorial Hospital Capital Improvement Fund and this mandate has not been fulfilled.

“I have heard from many concerned citizens who, in one way or another, are experiencing some type of hardship. These include business owners of small and large companies who are striving to stay open for business, non-governmental, and non-profit organizations who support our families, parents who must take leave to stay home to care for their children and our manåmko’. Collectively, they ask for the governor to do something to help,” San Agustin said.

He added: “Governor Leon Guerrero, I implore you to provide relief from the surplus to our people. It is the people who allowed the government of Guam to gain such a surplus. Yes, your administration had much to do with the surplus, but our people need help today! You can provide immediate support with these monies if the CARES Act funds have been allocated to your wishes and may not be utilized in this manner.”

The senator said he is ready to assist if legislation is required.