Guam governor lectures legislature on fiscal prudence
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
While signing the energy credit extension into law, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero reprimanded the legislature for making appropriations without adequate funding sources.
“While I am heartened by our government's continued strong revenues, the legislature's practice of writing checks we are not, as a government, certain we can cash does not reflect sound fiscal policy,” the governor said in her transmittal letter attached to Bill 173-37, which is now Public Law 37-49.
The law, signed last week, extends the Prugråman Ayuda Para I Taotao-ta Energy Credit for another three months, from October to December. The measure, which provides ratepayers with $100 monthly credits on their power bills, appropriates $15.8 million from the general fund to the Guam Power Authority.
The program’s second extension ended in September. Now in its third extension, the program stretched out to a total of 18 months since it was first signed into law in 2022.
“We cannot continue to throw caution to the wind and risk our government's hard-won fiscal health in this manner,” the governor said.
“Promising relief when we know we cannot afford it does a disservice to our people, many of whom are budgeting for their own households based on representations from the government that this relief is coming,” she added.
The energy credit program taps into the government’s excess revenues, which the administration pegged at $56 million as of August.
At a public hearing on Bill 173-37, budget officials told senators that the target stash had already been over-obligated and what was left was not sufficient to cover another energy credit extension.
“However, I am pleased to announce that recent collections have exceeded projections by over $l 3 million, such that it is now possible to fund the program,” the governor said.
“While our fiscal agencies have ensured there are additional revenues for the legislature to direct, it is incumbent upon the legislature to exercise its power of appropriation with restraint, so that it does not reverse our fiscal progress and drag our government back into a deficit,” she added.
GPA General Manager John Benvante said his office will work with the Department of Administration to apply the first $5.27 million in funding for the first $100 increment toward October services for all active residential and commercial accounts.
“GPA continues to assist customers who are still recovering from recent natural disasters. Our team will work swiftly to apply the credits once the funding is received from DOA.” Benavente said.
“The last four months of the year post the highest energy demands to our Island-Wide Power System due to warm temperatures and increased usage due to the holidays. The extension comes at a good time for our customers, and we will continue to ask everyone to Beat the Peak and conserve energy to lighten the demand on our power system while saving on their power bills," he added.