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  • By Bruce Lloyd

Guam's budget man says proposal opens discussion

With Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's first and nearly billion dollar budget proposal ($966 million) now before the Guam legislature, Bureau of Budget and Management Research Acting Director Lester Carlson Wednesday schooled reporters on details of how the fiscal year 2020 road map came to be. Clearly, it's subject to change, depending on actual revenues and input from lawmakers in Hagatna.

It's clearly not easy to figure out how to square millions of dollars in governmental aspirations in advance with the cash flows to the treasury that will eventually pay for them.

“With all things, revenues drive everything," Carlson said. "If we are in a position to allocate the revenue levels the governor is suggesting the legislature adopts, then the allocation process just works easier because everyone is just comfortable about revenue levels and the ability to achieve those revenue levels. Hence, allocate a portion to government appropriations."

Already getting attention in this ongoing dialogue, is the budget's provision that GovGuam employees will be getting the long frozen pay increments due them for creditable service.

"There is a couple things we want to do. We want to restore the increments and we want to do another wage study to see if there is anything we can do to retain critically needed teachers and nurses. So we kind of understand that so we are not just fishing in the dark," Carlson said.

Tax cuts engineered in Donald Trump's Washington were felt in the budget world of Guam, Carlson said, and that in turn hit rank and file Guam government employees hard.

"We cut to the bone. Let's be clear about that. We cut to the very bone.[The legislature] didn't fund vacant positions so that people weren't on the payroll so that you know if you needed critical positions filled there was the money. For 98 to 99 percent of those positions that were not funded you just had to do without."

Another budget request item that got considerable attention is what is forthrightly described as a "Marijuana Lab," clocking in at $750,000. This facility, not otherwise described, would screen both cannabis that is now legal for medical and recreational purposes in Guam for safety and quality. Carlson emphasized that this provision in the budget proposal was more of a conversation starter than a specific item, with details to be settled in the coming budget debate.

Carlson said he would take responsibility if there was any misunderstanding about this provision.


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