Guam – There could be a break in the budget impasse soon between the legislature and the Governor.
Lawmakers and the Governor have until the end of September to reach a compromise, according to Senator Ben Pangelinan who on Monday told PNC News that having already passed a budget, the Legislature has met the statutory requirement of approving a budget by August 31st, even thought the Governor vetoed the bill they passed.
However its unlikely it’ll take that long. Senators and Adelup are already talking about a compromise spending plan.
Tuesday, Senator Tina Muna Barnes reached out to the Governor, sending him a letter, in search of some common ground.
In her letter, Senator Senator Muna-Barnes explained that she could not vote for his bill because, among other things, it doesn’t fully fund COLA to retirees. Senator Barnes says that COLA is a benefit that retirees have earned. GovGuam COLA was originally set at $1,800 dollars annually, however several years ago it was temporarily reduced down to $1,100 because of the
Government’s financial condition. Senator Barnes says that retirees have been reaching out to her on a daily basis urging her to push for the full restoration of their COLA benefits.
“They were sharing with me that they live paycheck to paycheck and for many years they understood what needed to be done and as far as helping the government out when we’re in financial constraints but when they feel that we’re giving to everybody then they should be included,” said Senator Barnes.
Senator Barnes is also concerned that mayors don’t have enough resources for personnel administration in the Governor’s budget and she says it also took away over $200 thousand dollars for the Guam Visitor’s Buruea.
“You and I know that tourism is the number one economic driver for our community and 60 percent of our workforce comes from tourism and I think that’s important that we give GVB of all the resources that it needs so that they can fulfill and continue their mission,” said Senator Barnes.
The Governor’s Deputy Press Secretary Phillip Leon Guerrero says, “You know we’re always happy to compromise whenever we can and as we’ve seen in the past Senator Barnes has really been one of the big allies of the Governor when it comes to big initiatives. She was one of the first Democrats that reached across the aisle when it came to the tax refund bond.”
Leon Guerrero says that they respect Senator Barnes’ concerns with the budget and he says that Governor Calvo has directed his fiscal team to look into her concerns. “We are always going to move forward in a spirit of compromise with this,” said Leon Guerrero. The Governor’s press secretary says that the administration wants to put more money into education, more money into public health and they want to phase in Hay raises.
“And the only way to do that is with a budget passed and so we’re thankful that Senator Barnes is also feeling the spirit of compromise and is willing to reach out and we’re going to continue to work with her and work with other senators to make sure that we actually have a budget that can pass, a budget that is fiscally responsible, and a budget that takes care of all the priorities that the people of Guam want to see funded,” said Leon Guerrero.
Lawmakers were able to pass a budget and submit it to the Governor before the August 30th deadline that is required by Guam law but the Governor vetoed that measure. The fiscal year ends on September 30th.