Guam – Governor Eddie Calvo has sent a letter to Speaker Judi Won Pat to express his concerns about what he called “meddlesome legislation” introduced by the Democratic Leadership.
“Never in my time in public service,” writes the Governor, “have I seen a legislature act with such total disregard for the consequences of its political actions.”
And he “admonishes” the legislature for what he calls “careless tinkering with the law at the expense of the people.”
The letter comes on the heels of Monday night’s Emergency Session called in an effort to over-ride the Governor’s veto of Bill #516, a measure whose original intent was to ratify the extension of ARRA funding granted by U.S. DOE.
But the Bill ended up being dressed up with a variety of amendments which prompted the Governor’s veto.
Bill #516 was passed last week on the same day it was introduced by Budget Chair Senator Ben Pangelinan and Speaker Won Pat. No public hearing was held on it and there was no discussion of language in the bill which corrected an embarrassing mistake in the 2013 budget bill that would have barred paying all un-classified employees (including Judges), if the language had been left unchanged.
In his letter to the Speaker the Governor pointed out what he called the “repugnant” irony of lawmakers berating his fiscal team “for not sending official invitations to the Retirement Fund to participate in at least 20 public meetings regarding my spending cuts bill,” while “no one was given the opportunity to even comment on Bill 516.”
However the veto over-ride fell 1 vote short on a 9-6 party line vote with all six republicans voting against it. After that, Speaker Won Pat called Bill #296 to the floor. It too authorizes the extension of ARRA funding, minus the add-ons that prompted the Governor’s veto. It passed unanimously.
In the aftermath of these legislative moves, Governor Calvo writes that he feels it is ” incumbent on me to explain to the legislature how meddlesome legislation – clearly meant to score political points in an election season – can harm our community.”
The legislature’s actions, he argues threatened the extension of the ARRA funds needed to help re-build the island’s schools. “Bill 516 was packed with” provisions “unrelated” to the extension of ARRA funding, writes the Governor.
The worst provision, he argues, was the transfer of $3-million dollars from the Department of Mental Health to UOG, GCC and the Retirement Fund.
“The legislature clearly abrogated the government of Guam’s fiduciary, moral and legal responsibilities by adopting a measure that took $3 million out of the revenue stream” which was dedicated to Mental Health by order of the District Court.
The Governor also countered Senator Pangelinan’s argument during Monday night’s debate that overriding the veto would not cause the government to be in contempt of court , and the DMHSA no longer needed this funding. “How can anyone believe that to be true,” writes Calvo “when for years GovGuam failed in its obligations to those who needed mental health care .”
“Nevertheless, the motion to override my veto was made and nine senators – the majority of the legislature – voted for the override. I am aghast at such an action,” writes Calvo.
He concludes by maintaining that lawmakers damaged the hopes of UOG and GCC students who, the Governor writes ” were promised by Senators that the movement of this funding to UOG and GCC would avert tuition increases. It was an empty promise.”