By Nancy I. Maanao
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has reached out to the elected leaders and jurists of Guam with a request: ‘Let’s make the spending of the $664 million Congressman Michael San Nicolas secured for our people a One Guam initiative; tell me your priorities for spending this money.’
Ms. Leon Guerrero today wrote to senators asking that they meet "to discuss your priorities and ideas to rebuild a stronger Guam and work together to incorporate them into a comprehensive summary once federal guidance is received."
She asked the senators to send her a list of "collective priorities" by April 30; the yet-to-be scheduled meeting will occur afterward.
Guam will be receiving $664 million in direct aid for the government of Guam from the federal government. The amount was negotiated by Mr. San Nicolas for the island as the Biden stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, made its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. The governor will be able to spend that money - limited by federal guidelines - without legislative appropriation.
To put this into perspective, the $664 million the federal government will give to Guam exceeds the amount of General Fund revenue appropriated this fiscal year for the operations of the entire government. According to the budget act, Public Law 35-99, the Fiscal Year 2021 budgeted General Fund revenues available for appropriation is slightly north of $649 million.
Asked whether the governor will be extending the same working relationship on the use of these monies to the congressman, the mayors, and to the Judiciary, governor's director of communications Krystal Paco-San Agustin said, "Yes. I can confirm that Gov. Leon Guerrero and Lt. Governor Tenorio already met with island mayors last week and asked them to submit their priorities. Judiciary also submitted theirs. Also, Gov. Leon Guerrero meets regularly with the delegate to discuss our needs."
Congressman San Nicolas, however, said that's not true. "We have not heard from any local leadership what the plans are for these resources," Mr. San Nicolas said, clearly frustrated with the administration.
"It must be crystal clear that this is the people's money, their opportunity, and it must absolutely be spent first to ensure our full recovery from present circumstances, and thereafter to permanently improve the lives of the people of Guam," Mr. San Nicolas said. "Any politician who thinks that this is a political opportunity in any form is not a public servant, and the people are paying close attention."
The governor, in her letter to senators and in public statements, has said she is "formulating a spending plan that will deliver immediate relief to struggling families, stabilize government operations, and charts a course for economic recovery." That plan, she states, includes the construction of a new public hospital and public health facility, and "an offset for revenue shortfalls to allow government agencies to continue to provide critical services."
Mr. San Nicolas, in his last live appearance on Kandit News, expressed his hope that the island's local leadership will be responsible with the financial gift of $664 million from the American taxpayers. He said this is "a chance to get things right for our people," alluding to the opportunity this money presents to get tax refunds paid on time, and to invest in the future of the island.
Recently the congressman held a news conference expressing the need for the island's leaders to be responsible with the resources given considering that federal aid to the unemployed and to the government will soon expire, and tourism is not expected to rebound for at least several months after the federal funds well dries out. Tourism activity accounts for about 60 percent of the economy.
He has scheduled to appear back on Kandit Live to discuss these matters upon his return to the island.
Ms. Leon Guerrero's letter, addressed to Democrat Speaker Therese Terlaje and Republican leader Sen. Chris Duenas, follows: