GUAM LEGISLATURE FUMBLES FISCAL BUDGET

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Sept. 30, 2008) – The Guam Legislature's handling of the 2009 budget bill was a disservice to the community and the executive branch, which has yet to review the more than 100-page document.

By law, senators are supposed to provide the governor 10 days -- not including Sundays and holidays -- to either sign the budget into law, allow it to lapse into law or veto it before the start of the fiscal year, which is tomorrow, Oct. 1.

Senators were expected to approve the budget bill yesterday afternoon, even though it was actually ready since Tuesday last week. But as of 7 o'clock last night, the measure hadn't been passed.

The budget process was delayed because lawmakers wasted time introducing bills, amendments and riders on topics that didn't have anything to do with the budget. They spent hours arguing over procedural matters and petty topics. They even ignored the rules of the floor.

In the end, senators scrambled into the late night hours and over the weekend to finish the budget, even though they've had eight months to do so.

The governor's office submitted its proposed budget to the Legislature in late January. It was referred to the Legislature's finance committee on early February, and public hearings began in early May.

Crafting a $520 million budget should, understandably, be a deliberate process, with senators basing their decisions on what's best for our community. They're expected to make tough financial decisions over where to place and prioritize the island's revenues.

While disagreements are expected in this complex exercise, senators shouldn't have allowed political wrangling over riders and amendments to consume most of the process the way this lawmaking body and others before it have.

If an issue is so important and has a huge impact to the community, senators shouldn't try to address it as a rider or an amendment to the budget bill. It deserves to be introduced as a separate bill, and public hearings should be held for people to comment.

So much time has been wasted. And now, the budget bill has been placed in limbo. It's a situation that is truly shameful. This is what happens when senators fail to focus on their job and on what's most important for this community.

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