This time, vote was unanimous
A UNANIMOUS vote to pass the seventh version of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Act finally broke the budget impasse at the Legislature yesterday, just less than a month away from the onset of the next fiscal year.
After a landmark 15-0 vote in favor of the amended, substituted, and further amended version of Bill No. 1 (4-S), the next crucial step would be for Gov. Eddie Calvo to enact the bill into law.
The newest budget measure left the set-aside for income tax refunds at the $120 million amount and also provided additional authorization and support to the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority
Sen. Ben Pangelinan, chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, said the amended and substituted version of the budget bill provides for more than $33.4 million in transfer authority for the governor to assist GMHA.
Pangelinan said the governor’s language in his third version of the budget act was corrected, allowing him to not only transfer more than $10.5 million from FY2014 to pay for FY2013 GMHA obligations, but also to transfer $22.9 million from the more than $51 million he reserved from agencies in FY2013 as well as the 2 percent reserve to GMHA.
During the session, the senator said GMH's issue, at present, is basically the lack of resources to pay costs for the month of September. He said the latest budget bill now allows the governor to use appropriations for 2014 to meet the last month of GMH expenses for FY2013.
After the passing of the bill, Pangelinan said: “I thank my colleagues and my staff at the Office of Finance and Budget for working hard over the past several weeks to craft a budget bill that was unanimously accepted by all my colleagues in the Legislature."
Pangelinan, in a statement, said he was "adamant” that both the Democrats and Republicans meet to come to a consensus on matters relative to the fiscal 2014 budget.
“Notwithstanding my staunch objections to increasing government spending by $21 million, the spending increases were prioritized for education, health, and public safety as well as for our GovGuam employees and retirees," he said.
He added that his main priority of setting aside $120 million for tax refunds remained intact and this will ensure that all the taxpayers of Guam receive their tax refunds in a timely manner.
A bill introduced by Speaker Judith Won Pat providing approximately $18 million to the Department of Public Health and Social Services for its Medicaid program was incorporated as an amendment into the substituted and amended budget measure.
Speaker Won Pat said the measure provides additional funding for DPHSS' Medicaid program. This, in turn, would satisfy current and continued obligations owed to GMHA by the Medicaid and Medically Indigent Program for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.
Won Pat's Bill 178 appropriates monies from the government’s general fund by way of escheated funds to DPHSS.
According to the Speaker, in discussions with Department of Administration officials, she recognized that there would be available money – to the tune of approximately $9 million as supported by law – which can be appropriated for other needs.
With the available $9 million combined with the federal government match, a total of $18 million is expected to be available for public health to pay GMH if the budget bill passes and is signed into law, or if Bill 178-32 (COR) is successful, Won Pat said.
Other lawmakers also proffered changes to the budget measure, including Sen. Aline Yamashita who introduced an amendment authorizing the superintendent of the Guam Department of Education to use certain funds to pay for prior-year, unpaid promised compensation due to unprocessed personnel actions, authorized appointments, and court-ordered pay.
Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. also introduced an amendment – that all bingo games and raffles being conducted in the senior citizen centers by persons enrolled in the senior program shall not be taxable and that all income derived from the bingo games and sale of raffle tickets shall go toward activities for the senior citizens.
This time, vote was unanimous