Guam – When Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. first proposed taxing gaming machines it was for the purpose of paying off vendors at the hospital but on the session floor he made amendments that changed this completely.
Instead the tax of gaming machines will go towards funding an urgent care center at the Guam Memorial Hospital and Bill 19 that lawmakers passed on Monday now has nothing to do with the paying of vendors.
At first bill 20 had nothing to do with gaming machines and everything to do with paying off the hospital’s vendors. In fact the very first version would’ve taxed health insurance companies to pay off the vendors and during a public hearing on March 3rd GMH Administrator Joseph Verga and some hospital vendors testified in favor of the measure. At that hearing Verga said, “Because of the debt of the hospital we have a very small credit limit especially from the preferred vendors we receive services and critical supplies at the most cost effective rate we’re also in debt to a group of twenty or more physicians that provide services at the hospital many of the physicians have not been paid for a very long time” At the same hearing GMI President Ed Ilao said, “I must say that in the more than 25 years that I have directly managed our small family business I have seen our accounts receivable from GMH grow from $50 thousand dollars way back in 1987 to over $1.2 million dollars presently.”
This first version of bill 20 was vehemently opposed by insurance companies so Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. replaced it with a substitute version that would instead tax gaming devices like liberty machines. In fact Senator Rodriguez explained to PNC in a prior interview that, “We got the insurance industry of course who came out and really scared the community saying they would have to pass this down to them which I still believe today shouldn’t be the case you know they get very huge generous qualifying certificates and I believe they can absorb the cost. So the second, the substitute version that I have now looks at a different funding source which is the recently licensed gaming machines.”
Again a public hearing was held for the second or substitute version of bill 20 and again both Verga and hospital vendors came out in full support saying the tax on gaming machines was necessary to pay off hospital debts. During that hearing Verga said, “Everyday that goes by the interest on the debt increases it puts more pressure on the hospital and more and more vendors will not do business with us because of it.” GMI President Ed Ilao also spoke at the same hearing saying, “We the GMH vendors especially local vendors are extremely frustrated trying to collect from GMH. This is a liability that GMH, the government of Guam and this legislature cannot continue to ignore.”
However during session this Monday Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. put parts of his bill 20 into Senator Chris Duenas’ bill 19 but the parts that got put into bill 19 now have nothing to do with the paying of hospital vendors. On Tuesday Senator Rodriguez explained telling PNC “We can’t say bill 20 was put into bill 19. Provisions of bill 20 were put in as a floor amendment. PNC asked, “Tax on the gaming devices what do the proceeds go towards?” Senator Rodriguez replied saying “60 percent to funding the urgent care operations and 40 percent we listed it’s prescribed what it’s used for but it still must go through legislative appropriation.”
So now the version of the gaming bill that was passed by lawmakers unanimously on Monday has nothing to do with paying off debts to hospital vendors and instead has to do with taxing gaming machines to fund the urgent care center at the hospital. Even though in the legislative intent section of the version of bill 19 that was passed it states clearly that, “It is the intent of the I Lihelaturan Guahan that the first priority in the expenditure of fund monies will be to extinguish the existing hospital debt.”