Speaker B. J. Cruz
Lawmakers of both parties embraced a conservative fiscal year 2018 budget for the government of Guam, with the veto-proof passage of Substitute Bill No. 22-34 (COR). Passed 12-3, the measure, as adopted, reflects realistic revenue projections acknowledging the government’s current fiscal reality while ensuring critical agencies are adequately funded to sustain operations.
“If we want a budget that makes sense, we have to adopt revenue projections that don’t make things up. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their discipline, patience, and understanding during this process,” said Speaker B.J. Cruz.
While members ultimately voted to return to a single-year budget—citing a lack of clarity on the Executive Branch’s method for forecasting revenues—Cruz’s 2018 projections received strong bipartisan support from members of the legislature during deliberations—reducing proposed general fund expenses by $34 million, when compared to Governor Calvo’s FY 2018 Executive Budget Request, without jeopardizing current operations.
Despite claims from the Administration that critical public service agencies were underfunded by receiving status quo budgets, the Bureau of Budget and Management Research’s own reporting shows that executive agencies are still projected to leave a combined $8.7 million unspent in the current fiscal year. Nonetheless, in the spirit of cautious cooperation, SB 22-34 automatically increases appropriations to the Department of Corrections, the Guam Police Department, and the Guam Memorial Hospital, if and when additional withholding and business privilege tax revenues are tracking above the amounts adopted by the end of the FY 2018’s second quarter.
“I don’t enjoy saying, ‘no’ but this budget acknowledges that it is better to under-promise and over-deliver,” said Cruz. “While nearly every agency of the government received a status quo budget when compared to 2017, this bill automatically appropriates any revenues above our projections to critical areas in public safety and health.”
Moreover, SB 22-34 (COR) continues to furnish Governor Calvo with the flexibility needed to address priorities within the executive branch. The substitute measure maintains lump-sum appropriations and 15% transfer authority—providing extraordinary tools, rarely given to other governors by previous legislatures, to effectively manage the government’s resources.
“This was the first budget process for half of my colleagues, yet of each of them was diligent, committed, involved, and realistic,” said Cruz. “At a time when so much of our national politics is about gridlock and stagnation, 15 people sat in a room, weighed the arguments, and got this done for the people of Guam.”
The two-week budget session wrapped up the most transparent budget process conducted by the Guam Legislatures to date—with the veteran appropriations chair releasing an advanced version of the measure several weeks prior to session and providing detailed dashboards of each agency’s appropriation and funding levels . SB 22-34 now heads to Adelup where the Governor has ten calendar days (excluding Sundays and holidays) to either sign, veto, or allow the legislatively-approved budget to lapse into law.