In what is a largely symbolic gesture, Governor Eddie Baza has vetoed Substitute Bill No. 22-34 (COR), complaining that it fails to fund various island priorities and setting the stage for a veto over-ride, given that the budget passed 12-3 late last month.
In an Adelup news release, Governor Calvo maintained that as it stands, "the budget bill, which could put the safety, health and education of the people of Guam at risk."
In response, Speaker Benjamin Cruz, said Calvo simply wants to spend money that's not available.
“The Governor wrote a 7 page letter to say what he could have said in 10 words: ‘I want to spend 40 million dollars we don’t have.’ In the last two fiscal years alone, adopting Governor Calvo’s revenue projections would have left Guam in a $100 million hole. That isn’t politics. It’s arithmetic," Speaker Cruz said.
Cruz described the budget bill at passage as "conservative" citing its bi-partisan support reflected in the lop-sided vote. He said it also reflected 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,” he said then.
On vetoing the bill however, Calvo said that its skeptical view of projected GovGuam revenue has led legislators to not fund urgent priorities.
“Twelve senators have forgotten the needs of our island, but I have not,” Calvo said. “I refuse to have anything to do with a budget that does not prioritize the people of Guam,” he said in the release.
Some of the governor’s listed concerns:
$1M shortfall from the Y Kuentan Salappe Prinsepat, which helps principals purchase items throughout the year to serve the island’s students
The lack of funding for the Triennial Real Property Revaluation, which negatively affects the Territorial Education Facilities Fund that the Department of Education needs to fix our schools
The lack of funding for 33 police recruits, five critically-needed civilian positions and overtime within the Guam Police Department that are necessary to ensure the security of our island
Failure to adequately fund the island’s only public hospital, jeopardizing GMH’s patient services
The lack of funding in the amount of $1.8M for food services and $2.6M for medical care for our island’s prisoners, which would force the Department of Corrections to violate a federal court order, possibly sending them back into receivership
The total disregard for the Guam Visitors Bureau’s need for additional funding to maintain tourism arrival numbers in light of the North Korea event
The lack of funding in the amount of $2.2 M to increase bus services for residents who rely on public transportation
“I cannot in good conscience allow these issues to go unchallenged, therefore I am vetoing Substitute Bill No. 22-34,” Governor Calvo said in his veto message.
Cruz issued his own challenge to the veto message:
"If Governor Calvo wanted an additional $20 million this fiscal year, he could have selected the health insurance option that helped all of our families. I think we all know why he didn’t. Nearly every year that I have been chairman, the governor has asked this body to pass a budget that made things up for political convenience. Instead, bipartisan budgets have passed because senators from both parties were committed to a budget that made sense. I believe we will do that again.
"While the governor might be doing his best ‘petulant child in the toy store routine,’ I don’t believe my colleagues will risk a government shutdown just because Adelup is fonder of temper tantrums than hard truths,” Cruz said.