Guam – The legislature has now passed the 7th version of the fy14 budget. After adding in several amendments to the substitute bill 1(s-4) the measure passed unanimously with all 15 senators voting yes. This is now the 3rd version of the budget that has been passed by the legislature.
The seventh version of the FY14 budget keeps the set aside for tax refunds at $120 million dollars something that has been at the center of contention between the governor and lawmakers. The legislature had previously passed two versions of the budget which both contained this $120 million dollar reserve for taxes and both were vetoed. The governor has maintained that only $113 million is needed for tax refunds and in light of the recent financial crisis at the hospital he vetoed the bill and asked that some of the funding set aside for tax refunds be instead used to fund the hospital.
While the 7th and latest version of the budget keeps tax refunds at $120 million it also contains language that provides up to $33.4 million dollars for the hospital. According to a release from Senator Ben Pangelinan this budget allows the Governor to transfer $22.9 million from the over $51 million the Governor has set aside in reserves from GovGuam agencies this fiscal year…and it gives the governor an advanced appropriation of $10.5 million dollars that he can transfer to GMH. “Because the crisis at GMH is also now before the end of 2013 we’re allowing to use the appropriations from 2014 to meet this last month of GMH expenses,” said Senator Pangelinan.
Speaker Judi Won Pat also incorporated an amendment that appropriates $9 million dollars in escheated funds to public health. This $9 million combined with a federal government match should give public health $18 million dollars that it can pay GMH.
Senator Mike Limtiaco introduced an amendment to allow for a “Made in Guam” incubator program at the A.B. Won Pat Guam International airport. The amendment is based on a bill that Senator Limtiaco had previously introduced. This amendment generated the most discussion as some felt that it should have been handled separately as a stand alone bill. Senator Tom Ada brought up concerns that the amendment could infringe on some of the contractual rights of the airports new master concessionaire, Lotte group. The amendment says for example that the master concessionaire cannot offer products offered by the small businesses in the “Made in Guam” incubator program. “I’m just concerned that there’s enough things in here that may be reason enough to veto this budget bill because we’re putting something in this bill that may be going contrary to a contract that was just recently entered into,” said Senator Ada.
Senator Limtiaco said that this provision was in the Governor’s bill and promised that it would not affect the main concessionaire. “The airport authority as well as GVB and all the concerned parties were actively involved in the creation of this legislation so it was not done in a vacuum it was done with their full input and the bill was structured so that it would not infringe on the main concessionaire,” said Senator Limtiaco.
The measure passed unanimously which means there is a good chance that this could be the final version of the FY14 budget. Even if the Governor vetoes the bill an override would be likely. If the Governor vetoes the measure he would then have to convince at least six senators to change their minds in order to prevent an override.
READ the release from Senator Pangelinan below:
PANGELINAN WORKS WITH COLLEAGUES TO UNANIMOUSLY PASS BUDGET BILL FOR FISCAL YEAR 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (September 4, 2013 – 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) along with the dedication and hard work by the Office of Finance and Budget have been able to craft a FY 2014 Budget Act that was acceptable to all his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Pangelinan substituted the governor’s Bill No. 1 (4-S) which not only left the set-aside for Income Tax Refunds at the $120 million amount but also provided additional authorization and support to the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority.
“I thank my colleagues and my staff at the Office of Finance and Budget for working hard over the past several weeks to craft a budget bill that was unanimously accepted by all my colleagues in the Legislature,” stated Pangelinan.
Pangelinan was adamant that both the Democrats and Republicans meet to come to a consensus on matters relative to the FY 2014 Budget Act.
“Notwithstanding my staunch objections to increasing government spending by $21 million, the spending increases were prioritized for education, health, and public safety as well as for our GovGuam employees and retirees. My main priority of setting-aside $120 million for tax refunds remained intact which will undoubtedly assist all the taxpayers of Guam in receiving their tax refunds in a timely manner,” concluded Pangelinan.
READ the release from Senator Respicio below: