Following the introduction of his measure to protect future generations from a lifetime of tobacco addiction, Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz has submitted legislation to protect the very cancer services that help tobacco’s victims. Introduced late Friday afternoon, Bill No. 10-34 (COR) would make any unauthorized withdrawal or transfer from the Guam Cancer Trust Fund (GCTF) a misdemeanor under Guam law—ensuring that the account cannot be raided for any non-prescribed purpose, such as covering the University of Guam’s (UOG) $21 million funding shortfall.
“Cancer is the second leading cause of death among our people, and as long as you can buy it on a stick, that statistic will continue to plague us,” said Cruz. “That’s why this bill is important. It makes sure that, while we fight to save our children, every cent in the Cancer Trust Fund goes exactly where it belongs—toward those currently suffering getting the help they need.”
Established by Public Law 30-80, the Guam Cancer Trust Fund helps provide crucial preventative and treatment programs for Guam’s cancer patients through financial contributions to organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Catholic Social Services, and Guam Cancer Care. By statute, UOG administers the account, which receives fifteen percent (15%) of the revenue collected through Guam’s Tobacco Tax.
With the Department of Administration (DOA) failing to remit over half of the University's FY2016 cash allotment, Cruz found it necessary to craft statutory language to protect the Cancer Trust Fund as a precautionary measure. The Speaker notes that, while the university has done its best to maintain operations without reducing its employees’ pay, Bill No. 10-34 would ensure that DOA cannot urge UOG to use the GCTF cash as a stopgap for payroll in the future—a necessary precaution given the Administration’s track record.
Last July, the then-Vice Speaker discovered that approximately $6 million was raided from the Child Support Enforcement Account by Administration officials in order to make payroll. The revelation—which was confirmed by Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson during her office’s annual Fiscal Year 2017 Budget hearing—immediately prompted legislative measures protecting both the Child Support Account and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund.
“When it comes to cash, the Executive Branch sometimes treats UOG like its red-headed stepchild. The Governor’s children eat first and UOG gets the leftovers," said Cruz. “I don’t want the Cancer Trust Fund being used to justify this kind of neglect. That cash is held in Trust and it should stay that way.”
To safeguard the sanctity of the GCTF account, Bill No. 10-34 would make it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison (9GCA, Section 80.34), to withdraw or transfer cash for any purpose other than what is specifically authorized by either Public Law 30-80 or the investment policies established by the University’s Board of Regents. Moreover, while the President of UOG is currently mandated to post quarterly reports of the Fund’s revenues and expenditures to the university’s website, Cruz’s measure would further increase transparency by requiring that the report include the account’s balance sheet, bank statements, and, if necessary, the bank reconciliation.
“Though we shouldn’t have to statutorily protect accounts like the Guam Cancer Trust Fund, history has taught me that sometimes a basic sense of decency isn’t enough,” said Cruz. “By explicitly prohibiting unauthorized withdrawals, Bill 10 will guarantee the sanctity of this Fund—safeguarding the crucial services our cancer patients need, and ensuring that history won’t be repeating itself.”