Guam – Senators voted against Governor Eddie Calvo’s latest version of the FY14 budget, but not until after some heated debate.
Republican senators walked out of session Friday after Speaker Judi Won Pat called them to vote on an override of the Govenror’s veto of the FY14 budget bill lawmakers passed on Tuesday.
The Republicans felt that they should’ve been going into the special session that was called by the Governor to vote on his latest version of the FY14 budget.
“The minority at this point believes that this is illegal as per the organic act of Guam that the Governor has the authority to call us into session we have objected consistently on the floor here,” said Senator Chris Duenas.
The Democrats would proceed despite the absence of the Republicans but it really didn’t matter because their override attempt lacked the votes and failed. Lawmakers then recessed and then went back into session to discuss the Governor’s version of the FY14 budget.
The Governor’s Director of Communications Troy Torres says they hope that lawmakers will find this version passable. “In the spirit of compromise and cooperating with the Democratic majority we kept a lot of the things that they put in to the budget and we tried to work around that,” said Torres. Although Torres says there are a lot of things in the Governor’s budget that are the same as the vetoed budget there are still some major differences that Democrats are opposed to. Specifically differences with the set aside for tax refunds, the amount of Hay raises and the amount of Cost of Living Allowances(COLA) for retirees.
The set aside for refunds is at $113 million instead of $120, Hay raises are set at $8.4 million as opposed to $10.9 million and COLA will be set at $1,500 instead of $1,800. “There is language in our bill that says if there are more cash resources that become available then the Governor has the authority to use that for further implementation of the Hay plan, so light at the end of the tunnel and we feel pretty confident just like this year that our revenue levels our actual revenue levels will exceed the projected revenue levels,” said Torres.
During the special session Democrats voiced their disagreement with the Governor’s latest version of the budget. Senator Mike San Nicolas said the Governor’s bill uses money that would’ve gone to pay for Hay raises to instead hire more GovGuam employees. “You either think our people are ignorant or you think they’re stupid if you think you’re going to be able to pay them less and hire somebody right next to the empty seat next to them and tell them that we don’t have enough money to pay you what you’re worth. That’s just not right and for our retires who have been waiting so patiently to be thrown a nickel and a dime so we can go and hire somebody else you’d really do that to our manamko’ that’s a new direction?” asked Senator San Nicolas.
However, Torres says that these new positions are for critical areas like the Guam Police Department. “We restored the funding levels that the public safety agencies need that includes $800 thousand dollars to GPD so they can hire more police officers which is of course more critical at this time because of the crime issues on the island,” said Torres.
Again the Governor’s budget bill failed today with only 6 yes votes and 8 no votes. Senators then adjourned from the Governor’s special session and went back into the regular session that was called by the speaker. They then recessed until tomorrow (Sat.) at 9am.
READ the Session report from Majority Leader Senator Rory Respicio below: