Guam’s Calvo Warns Legislature’s 2018 Budget Could Jeopardize Public Safety

Speaker Cruz: describes the 2018 budget bill as 'conservative' but noted that the bi-partisan support for the measure reflected 'realistic revenue projections'

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, September 13, 2017) – Administration officials warned on Tuesday the 2018 budget passed by the Guam Legislature, which is $161 million below the spending level proposed by the governor, could jeopardize the programs and basic services provided by the government.

Gov. Eddie Calvo on Monday vetoed the $724.7 million budget bill, a substitute to the $885 million he originally proposed.

“I have no choice but to veto the budget bill. In clear conscience, I could not sign a budget that would affect our island in such a way that our people’s safety, their health, or education would be at such a risk,” Calvo said.

However, with 12 senators crossing party-lines to vote for Substitute Bill 22-34, Calvo was resigned to the likelihood that Speaker Benjamin Cruz has enough support to override the veto.

“The governor wrote a seven-page letter to say what he could have said in 10 words: ‘I want to spend 40 million dollars we don’t have,’ ” Cruz said, referring to the governor’s veto message. “In the last two fiscal years alone, adopting Governor Calvo’s revenue projections would have left Guam in a $100 million hole. That isn’t politics. It’s arithmetic.”

Describing the 2018 budget bill as “conservative,” Cruz noted that the bi-partisan support for the measure reflected “realistic revenue projections.”

Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, however, dismissed the legislature’s budget as a “political one designed to handcuff public safety agencies and economic growth during an upcoming election year.”

Tenorio said the Legislature’s 2018 budget places the Department of Corrections at risk of being placed back into receivership.

“From ensuring our prisoners receive their basic needs such as food and medical care, to hiring more officers, our administration has worked hard to bring DOC into compliance,” the lt. governor said. “With this budget, the Legislature is forcing DOC to fail.”

In April, the District Court of Guam lifted the 26-year consent decree imposed on DOC to remedy constitutional violations. It required the government of Guam to improve health and safety conditions at the Mangilao facility, which was under placed under federal consent decree in May 1991.

Corrections Director Tony Lamorena said the budget bill “could be catastrophic for our island’s only prison” as it would negate the progress made by the department over the years.

Lamorena said Corrections has recently taken great strides in addressing contraband issues within the prison, working with Customs and Quarantine and Guam Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division and K9 unit.

“Correctional officers are dedicated unsung heroes who on a daily basis risk their lives to protect the community from known violent criminals. They are not visibly seen in the community and are easily forgotten, but that does not lessen the importance of their work which is easily taken for granted,” Lamorena said.

“Our officers and staff are true professionals contributing their part to ensure the safety of the entire community. Presence is the greatest deterrent so by showing more K9 and shakedowns we hope to cut down drastically the contraband issue,” he added.

Lamorena said his department is shortchanged in the amount of $1.8 million for food services and $2.6 million for medical care for prisoners, which would result in violation of a federal court order.

“With all the work DOC is doing to improve our prisons, why is the Legislature so willing to prevent our prison’s progress? Public safety officers don’t deserve this legislative insult to their 24/7 sacrifices. Officers and their families know how hard it is to try and make ends meet, both at work and at home,” Tenorio said. “People are not stupid; they know that short changing public safety now is a political tactic.”

While setting a smaller budget “might make for great politics,” Tenorio said “it makes for poor public policy at the expense of our families and the hundreds of hardworking public safety officers.”

Marianas Variety
Copyright © 2017 Marianas Variety. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Add new comment