Senators add GovGuam reorganization to sales tax bill

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Guam – Lawmakers continued deliberating over bill 248, which would create a 2 percent sales tax. Most of the discussions centered around Senator Frank Aguon Jr.’s government reorganization amendment.  The rider is essentially his bill 247-34 or the “Government Priorities Act of 2018.”

“We are re-establishing a provision that would empower or provide the authority which already the governor of Guam presently has in the organic act but because of these laws that constrain any extensive re-organization of the government of Guam what this would provide is that opportunity and that authority for the governor of Guam through this amendment should it pass recognizing that education public safety and healthcare are priorities and that we need to look at streamlining,” said Senator Aguon.

Senator Aguon said his reorganization amendment would cut the red tape that hinders the governor’s ability to reorganize and streamline the government.

“The red tape that we are trying to eliminate might one interpret that as protections for the employees that would be impacted by reorganization,” asked Senator Tom Ada.

“There’s existing provisions that have not been extracted or deleted or the proposal is not to delete those particular provisions.  And one of them is the public employees’ management relations act because our permanent employees certainly have to be given due process in regards to any action by the governor of Guam as it applies to permanent employment,” said Senator Aguon.

Senator Aguon said his amendment would not remove these protections. Lawmakers then spent the remainder of the morning and part of the afternoon discussing various provisions within the amendment.

“I really want to encourage us to move forward and let’s have the discussion on the sales tax or the BPT or something that could get us that much closer to figuring out this cash crisis,” said Senator Wil Catro.

“This really comes down to prioritizing funding. And if we are going to entertain a funding legislation without a corresponding reduction in expenses of this government without giving the governor of Guam the flexibility to be able to reorganize this government so that we can realize some savings and some cost reductions for the balance of this fiscal year and moving forward, then that is not a balanced approach,” said Senator Aguon.

Ultimately Senator Aguon’s reorganization amendment was adopted and added to the bill. Shortly before news time, senators Frank Aguon Jr. and Mike San Nicolas were pushing amendments to adopt the governor’s fiscal realignment plan. As of news time senators were still discussing the governor’s fiscal realignment plan which would essentially institute certain cuts that the governor has identified.