Senators issue statements on budget bill passage

Senator Telo Taitague (PNC file photo)

Senators issued various statements in reaction to the passage of Bill 186, the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Act, late Saturday night.

Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes, who voted in favor of the bill, said the debates regarding the FY 2020 Budget (as amended) resulted in provisions for up to $10 million from excess income taxes and business privilege taxes to go towards funding shortfalls in the Guam Memorial Hospital.

“After a couple of versions that have been drafted, and the over 100 amendments to this bill, I thank everyone for coming together to do right by the People of Guam,” the Speaker stated.

Senator Amanda L. Shelton, who also voted in favor of Bill 186-35 said this budget bill finally contains allotment protections for the University of Guam, and funds programs like job coaches for individuals with disabilities and a summer youth employment program to give our youth the job experience they need to succeed in their lives.

While it’s not perfect, we need to move forward into the fiscal year with the knowledge that the Legislature must keep a watchful eye on spending, protect the allotments to our education agencies and ensure that health and public safety have the resources they need. The people should always be our priority,” Shelton said.

But Republican senator Telo Taitague, who voted against the bill, said Bill 186-35 doesn’t do enough to change how the government behaves fiscally.

“Through the passage of Bill 186 the 35th Guam Legislature continues to ignore ordinary people – Guamanians struggling every day to raise their children, pay rising rent, and who are forced to choose whether to buy a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk. These are our relatives, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who have to work multiple jobs and make sacrifices because the price of groceries, fuel, utilities, and so much more is becoming even more out of reach for them and their families,” Taitague said.

She added: “My opposition to Bill 186 is also attributed to a failure by this legislature to carry out its most important responsibility of preparing a budget through a thorough, robust discussion. In rushing to pass a budget with an August 31st deadline the legislature continued making bad policy calls such as taking from Peter to pay Paul … Why did the democratic majority wait until the last 10 days to review the most important bill of the legislature? Why did the democratic majority choose to debate a $1 billion budget proposal into the night while most of Guam was asleep?”