Guam School Buses May Benefit From Extra Funding Bill

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$1 million would be appropriated from Legislature budget

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 18, 2012) – A bill that would help fund busing for Guam’s school children was discussed yesterday at a public hearing at the Legislature.

Bill 517, also known as the Big Bucks for Buses Act of 2012 would de-appropriate $1 million from the Legislature's budget and give the money to the Department of Public Works (DPW), which operates the island's public school buses. The agency would use the money to repair, buy or lease buses.

DPW Director Joanne Brown said she supports the bill because it would provide much-needed funding for buses. Currently DPW moves about 39,000 students every school day on fewer than 115 buses, she said.

"The department is stressed on a daily basis to keep its aging bus fleet operating and in safe condition for the transportation of our island school students," Brown said.

The oldest bus is 22 years old while the newest is 8, Brown said, and DPW would greatly appreciate any additional funding for buses.

Sen. Chris Duenas, author of the bill, said cutting the Legislature's budget by $1 million was possible. Duenas, who is running for re-election, said it was important to lead by example and cutting the budget to help school children would do so.

Travis Mesa, a Dededo resident, testified at yesterday's hearing in support of the bill. Mesa said students are crammed into buses, many of them unsafe. Mesa said school children are suffering and the bill is a solution to the problem.

He said if the senators really care about the students then they should support the bill.

Another resident and parent, Joseph Perez, said if the bill was the only solution to fix the busing problem then the senators need to support it. Perez said the safety of the children is important and the government would be liable if anything happens to them.

Several Republican senatorial candidates also came out to support the bill. All of them said it was important to pass the bill to show the people of Guam real leadership.

Sen. Rory Respicio, the chairman on the committee on rules, said the appearance of the Republican candidates made it seem like a political play.

"My takeaway is that tonight's hearing appeared to be a well-planned Republican infomercial, and like all other issues before the Legislature, the committee will take all testimony under advisement," Respicio said. He, too, is running for re-election.

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