Guam – The fifth version of the FY14 budget was introduced today. Senator Ben Pangelinan is hopeful that this version will get the support of Republican senators and he’s hoping that it will ultimately get the support of the Governor.
Senator Pangelinan believes that the fifth and latest version of the FY14 budget incorporates many of the concerns from his Republican counter parts and from the Governor. [see Senator Pangelinan’s release on his latest budget proposal below].
The new budget bill still has tax refunds pegged at $120 million versus the $113 million the Governor had requested and it also fully implements COLA for retirees. “The bill continues to have $1,800 for COLA we’ve discussed that and gone back and forth and I think there’s some movement and consideration on my other colleagues side on the Republican side for considering that favorably,” said Senator Pangelinan.
So where’s the compromise? Senator Pangelinan says the compromise is in areas like the Hay study. In his last bill he appropriated $11 million dollars for the full implementation of the Hay study. The Governor said this was too much as he was planning on phasing in the Hay study as cash becomes available. Senator Pangelinan’s latest budget now appropriates $8 million dollars for Hay raises which is what the Governor’s budget had. It also adopts an $802 million dollar revenue projection. “And then the revenue numbers are exactly what the Governor has proposed. I’m a little uncomfortable with those revenue numbers to be very honest. You know I fought hard against adopting some of those revenue numbers but you know the Republicans say that the budget that the Governor submitted which included the revenue is a responsible budget they stand firm by those numbers the Governor continues to state it so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt,” said Senator Pangelinan.
The bill also gives the Governor back the flexibility to choose between the non-exclusive and exclusive health insurance contract for GovGuam employees. Over the weekend lawmakers passed a bill that would cap funding for health insurance at $55 million dollars which would effectively force the Governor to choose the cheaper non-exclusive contract. This latest budget now appropriates $68 million for health insurance which Senator Pangelinan says is enough for the non-exclusive contract but it also allows the Governor to select the exclusive contract if he chooses. If the exclusive contract is chosen the budget bill then allocates the $10 million in savings to Hay raises and retro merit bonuses for the Judiciary and DOE instead of using a line of credit for merit bonuses which is something the Governor was opposed to.
Senator Pangelinan thinks they’re getting close and believes this is a bill that the Governor can agree to. While Republicans have had little time to review the budget, at first glance, Senator Chris Duenas says it looks like a budget that they can work with.”I think so far especially since we’ve got into session now you see a lot of room to work together and I think that’s whats gonna happen I think that’s what people expect and I hope that’s what happens in the end,” said Senator Duenas. The Senator says that there have been a lot of good faith talks that have been ongoing behind the scenes and he’s hopeful that they continue, but he is still waiting to review all of the details of the budget. “I’m also waiting to see the analysis from the administration I’m sure they’ve been reviewing it as well,” said Senator Duenas.
So far Senator Duenas is happy that they are discussing the bill in the committee of the whole. “This should allow for a product that will eventually come out that is something that we’ve all made together and hopefully it will mean that we can all pass it and the Governor can sign it,”said Senator Duenas. Since lawmakers passed a budget before the end of August as required by Guam law, the deadline for a budget to be signed into law is on September 30th.
READ Senator Pangelinan’s release on Bill #177 below:
PANGELINAN HIGHLIGHTS NEW FY 14 BUDGET ACT BEING DISCUSSED AT THE LEGISLATURE
FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (August 29, 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 his Democratic colleagues, introduced Bill No. 177-32(COR), the latest version of the FY 2014 budget act. In this latest version, Pangelinan highlights that the set-aside for income tax refunds continues to remain at $120 million, and not the $113 million that the Governor wanted. “Setting aside as much cash as possible for income tax refunds is my first priority above all others in this budget.” stated Pangelinan.
“At the insistence of the Governor and to avoid a government shutdown, we kept his questionable revenues for the Territorial Education Facilities Fund and his spending levels with the Solid Waste Operations Fund even though it will likely create huge holes in funding levels during FY 2014,” explained Pangelinan.
Pangelinan also utilized the Governor’s figure of $8.4 million for the Hay Study pay increases for GovGuam employees. “We considered the Governor’s phased-in plan and amount and provided the Governor with authority to create such a plan that is paid equally and fairly.”
Bill No. 177-32 also appropriates $219.65 million to the Guam Department of Education, which is $350,000 more than the Governor’s Bill 1 (3-S).This additional funding was dedicated to repair and renovate the George Washington High School track in Mangilao. The University of Guam was provided $28.6 million, over $2 million more than the Governor’s proposal, which was mainly as a result of relieving UOG of a debt service obligation for FY 2014. UOG also was provided funding for its Student Services Center and the School of Engineering Annex. The Guam Community College was provided $14.2 million, $1 million more than the Governor’s proposal and was also provided funding for its Capital Improvements.
“We wanted to fully prioritize education at levels that are sufficient to run their operations and educate our students,” stated Pangelinan. “Especially in light of the increased enrollment figures from both the UOG and GCC, it was important that we provided them the required funding to prepare these students.”
The bill also provides the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority $15.8 million, which is almost $1 million more than the Governor’s proposal.
“I am hopeful we can find common ground on this new budget that incorporates many of the issues raised by the Governor,” concluded Pangelinan.