Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on Thursday turned down Speaker Therese Terlaje’s invitation for her to take the floor and discuss the administration’s spending plan for the American Rescue Plan funds at next week's legislative session.
The governor dismissed Terlaje's invitation as an “unusual request.”
“As is customary and appropriate, in all states and territories, the government's executive branch sends its representatives to the legislature to answer your questions and provide you with the information you need directly from its agencies to assist you and your colleagues in making necessary decisions,” Leon Guerrero said in response to Terlaje’s call for her to speak at the legislature’s Committee of the Whole session on Aug. 9.
Disappointed at the governor’s refusal to engage the legislature, Terlaje noted that “there is nothing usual about the expenditure of the ARP funds.”
The $600-million Covid-relief funds, Terlaje added, are “once in a lifetime” windfall “that no governor, no legislature, and no member of your fiscal team has experienced.”
Despite the senators’ repeated requests, Leon Guerrero has yet to unveil her administration’s expenditure plans for the federal grants.
“We have always made available to you the director of the Bureau budget Management and Research, Mr. Lester Carlson, the Director of the Department of Administration, Mr. Edward Birn, and the director of the Department of Revenue and Taxation, Mrs. Dafoe Mansapit-Shimizu,” the governor told Terlaje said. “They serve as our representatives for the annual budget process. They will answer your questions and provide you with the information you need to prioritize the use of local funds.”
Terlaje, however, noted that in previous public hearings, the administration’s representatives have been unable to satisfy the senators' inquiries, especially with regard to the implementation of the RISE Act or the ALL-RISE program.
“Surely, we can do better than this,” she said.
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The speaker said speaking before the committee of the whole offers the governor “an opportunity to be forthright and transparent as promised, to continue the dialogue that the legislature began in good faith.”
“Dialogue cannot be one way and the people of Guam deserve our utmost cooperation when their suffering has been long and great and our success or failure in the recovery of their lives and our economy will surely impact generations to come,” she added.
Meanwhile, the governor’s chief of staff, Jon Calvo, advised the Department of Revenue and Taxation that Leon Guerrero will soon issue an executive order further simplifying the application process for the All RISE program.
“The executive order will require that DRT begin accepting applications no later than Sept. 1, 2021,” Calvo said in a letter to Shimizu. “The program's operational goal is to distribute cash assistance within fourteen days of a completed and approved application.”
Calvo instructed Shimizu to align all necessary personnel and resources to the implementation of All RISE.
“We received assurance that directed cash assistance to adversely affected members of the community will continue to be allowable in the issuance of the final rule,” Calvo told Shimizu. “Moreover, any use of these funds, at the governor's discretion, must adhere to the framework and conditions outlined in the relevant provisions of the final rule and federal law.”