The management of all federal funds awarded to Guam must be a shared responsibility between the governor and the legislature, Sen. James Moylan said, suggesting an amendment to the executive powers under the Organic Act.
In other jurisdictions, Moylan said, the state legislatures are involved with the spending of their respective state’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds.
On Guam, he said, the legislature has presented Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero with a proposed spending priority list, but nothing came of it.
“With over $600 million in federal relief funds currently on island, along with the millions of additional dollars which Guam received in 2020 due to the pandemic, it is appearing that for transparency and ‘checks and balances’ purposes, that archaic language in the Organic Act regarding the authority over the local appropriation of federal dollars provided to Guam should be amended,” Moylan stated in a letter to Rep. Michael San Nicolas.
"Presently this authority is granted to the Governor of Guam. However, it is becoming evidently clear that legislative involvement is also needed," he added.
Moylan noted that the 36th Guam Legislature has been requesting the administration for a spending plan, "and here we are in August with the budget discussion period upon us, and the administration has failed to provide any fiscal information with the federal monies."
The request for a shared spending authority, Moylan said, involves not just the ARP funds, but all other federal grants that roll into Guam's coffers.
Moylan cited a provision of the Organic Act, which states, "Appropriations, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, and except such appropriations as shall be made from time to time by the Congress of the United States, shall be made by the legislature."
This Organic Act provision, he said, needs to be updated to reflect the contemporary political environment.
"This language has existed since 1950, and it is possible that the intent at the time from Congress was to assure that the naval governor held authority over how federal funds would be appropriated on the island," Moylan told San Nicolas.
"The legislative process would involve the inclusion of the community, as it would require a public hearing. It would also open the opportunity for the legislative branch to work cohesively with the executive branch to serve a mirrored objective. Further, it would promote transparency."