By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The 36th Guam Legislature voted 9-6 on Wednesday to pass the government of Guam's $1 billion budget for fiscal 2023.
The budget bill, which is now headed to the governor's desk, was formed with several amendments.
“At its best, passing the annual budget is a process that requires leadership, teamwork, and a focus on fixing problems rather than laying blame. I want to thank each of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their support of Guam's prosecutors, our public libraries, and public sector employees,” said Vice Speaker Muña Barnes.
Muña Barnes' amendments include the following:
$200,000 for the Guam Public Library System for additional books, supplies, and materials
Pay adjustments for attorneys at the Office of the Attorney General and their counterparts at the Public Defender's Office/Alternate Public Defenders
·Amended language requires notification of all temporary details of personnel throughout the executive branch to the Governor of Guam and Speaker of the Legislature. This is to safeguard against the possibility that classified, merit-based employees are detailed to positions without commensurate compensation as required by existing law.
The Republican senators' proposed a $2 million allotment for the construction of a new facility at the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency did not make it to the budget bill's final version.
The proposed amendment would have used surplus revenues from fiscal 2022 to fund the architectural and engineering (A&E) design for the Guam Customs Satellite Inspection, Holding and Secured Sterile Facility Area.
The CQA screening facility would provide the agency the much-needed resource to address the importation of illicit drugs entering the seaport, by allowing officers the ability to thoroughly inspect containers, according to Sen. James Moylan.
“The A&E would be the first step in finally getting the construction of this facility rolling, and while I recognize some of the concerns from my colleagues that federal grants and not local funds should be pursued to fund the A&E and eventually the facility, the reality is that the agency has been attempting to obtain the funds since 2018, and here we are today still waiting,” Moylan said.
“I will be reaching out to CQA’s management, along with the legislative oversight of the agency to seek solutions, as it is paramount that this facility is not ignored, and the land returned. The screening facility will greatly reduce the importation of illegal drugs,” he added,
Speaker Therese Terlaje successfully removed a barrier to paying the families of eligible deceased war claimants, who according to the original public law, would have had to wait until all living claimants were paid first.
As of Aug. 31, there have been 119 claims filed and the review has been completed for almost all filings to date.
“As a member of the War Claims Adjudication Committee which meets every other week, I advised my colleagues that payment of those claims would equate to a little over $1 million of the $10 million set aside, so we can very much afford to quickly pay the decedents and eligible claimants who died instead of having their families wait until the end of the application period in March of 2023," Terlaje said.
The amendment, which passed unanimously on the floor, does not expand eligibility to those who died prior to the 2016 federal deadline.