FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (June 8, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan (D), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee) has received confirmation from federal officials that GovGuam should expect additional federal Section 30 funds in excess of what was projected for FY 2014. The additional “windfall” funds that have been estimated by local officials to be over $20 million was as a result of two federal entities that have not been remitting “cover over” Section 30 funds to GovGuam for almost two decades.

“We have received confirmation from federal officials that, in fact, GovGuam should be seeing additional Section 30 funds over and above what was projected for FY 2014,” declared Pangelinan. “I am unsure why the Administration has kept quiet about these developments, especially when such things should be shared with the Guam Legislature as it is the body that appropriates funds for government services and projects.”

The lack of transparency surrounding the handling of additional and excess Section 30 funds continues to be a concern for Pangelinan. Over the past two years, GovGuam has received over $20 million, all for which such information was not provided to the Guam Legislature in a timely manner during budget session deliberations for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 and were not considered in the formulation of the budgets.

“This lack of transparency in the receipt of Section 30 funds is one of the reasons why I introduced Bill 309 which attempts to increase transparency in the Section 30 fund process,” explained Pangelinan.

Bill 309, introduced by Pangelinan and Vice Speaker Benjamin J. Cruz, would prioritize any excess additional Section 30 funds, over and above what was projected in FY 2014, toward the following:

(1) paying the remaining 50% to General Pay Plan GovGuam employees which include all non-attorney/teacher/nurse/executive employees;

(2) provide funding to the Guam Department of Education;

(3) hiring an additional 20 police officers;

(4) hiring additional prosecution teams and victim witness advocates at the Office of the Attorney General;

(5) and pay the remainder of the law enforcement retroactive pay increases.

“I continue to urge the governor to push for these additional excess Section 30 funds and to also be transparent in providing timely and relevant information to the Guam Legislature when it comes to updates on the receipt of Section 30 funds,” concluded Pangelinan.

For further information, please contact the Offices of Senator Pangelinan at 473-4236 or email at office@senbenp.com.

 

And now the even harder work begins

 

OVER the past several legislative terms, I have continued to willingly take on the responsibility of being the chairman of multiple committees of the Guam Legislature that has legislative oversight over numerous agencies within the government of Guam. The responsibilities of holding such chairmanships involve work that encompasses and requires knowledge, experience and understanding of the multi-faceted operations and policies of these government departments and agencies and to ensure that a balance is provided between the needs of these agencies and the achievement of their stated purposes of existence.

The Office of the People includes my chairmanship of the legislative committees on appropriations, public debt, legal affairs, retirement, public parks, recreation, historic preservation and land with oversight over government agencies such as the Bureau of Budget and Management Research, the Guam Economic Development Authority, the Office of the Attorney General, the Government of Guam Retirement Fund, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Land Management, the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, and the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.

The legislative process is one that is inclusive and provides a medium from which the public at-large as well as any other government stakeholders within the government can provide their thoughts, positions, testimonies, etc. on matters before the legislative body. It is within this legislative process that the work of The Office of the People is apparent and thrives. When any one senator introduces bills and it is referred to my committee, the legislative process specific to the introduced bill begins.
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Grow Guam with growth in minimum wage

 

WHENEVER one thinks of the future, it should not be without first understanding and recognizing the actions of today and yesterday. As an elected official, I ensure that a proper understanding of the potential effects any legislation may have on future generations is obtained and there is adequate consideration on how previous legislation may affect any current proposals. If history has taught us anything it is that we must not be bound simply by the limitations of the past but open to the possibilities of tomorrow – just as our graduating students across the island are hopeful and open to the possibilities of their future. Much like the seed of education that was planted many years ago by their parents and teachers, a planting of the minimum wage seed will, in part, shape their future professional and personal successes so that their harvest can be much more fruitful for their families.

In April of this year, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz introduced Bill 316 that would, over the span of three years, incrementally raise the minimum wage by 95 cents each year until 2017 when the minimum wage is proposed to be at $10.10 per hour. Since its introduction, Bill 316 has received an abundance of media attention and debate by both critics and advocates who each cite many decidedly helpful reasons that support their opinions and help, through their discourse, the people of Guam and the Guam Legislature formulate a position on this very important community topic. Despite the pros and cons that have been circulated, there is a history that includes real numbers that should not be discounted or ignored.

Much like in 2007 and 2009, business owners threatened a huge impact to Guam’s economy and they were right, though not in the way that they originally predicted. Many business owners warned that they would need to increase prices to make up for their added labor costs just as they are predicting today. The Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce president, Lourdes Leon Guerrero, indicated at a public hearing on Bill 316 that jobs have actually increased from mid-July of 2009 through the present. The number of jobs created was estimated to be at 1,740 while hours worked increased by two hours a week despite economic market losses in 2008. There were no sustainable job losses or cut hours as a direct result of the 2009 minimum wage increase. So what has changed since 2009?
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FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (May 26, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – The Department of Revenue and Taxation (DRT) submitted the Income Tax Refund Status Report for the month ending April 30, 2014 to the Guam Legislature on May 16, 2014. Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan (D), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee), continues to express his concerns over the remaining income tax refund liability the government of Guam continues to owe.

Based on the report, there is approximately $73.7 million due to individuals and $9.63 million owed to businesses for a total of $83.33 million still owed by the government in tax refunds.

“The latest RevTax report states that the government of Guam still owes over $83 million in income tax refunds, even though we have paid millions this fiscal year. We cannot let our guard down, or we will quickly find ourselves in a deficit,” stated Pangelinan. “No press release, no weekly address, and absolutely no distorted account of history can wipe away the tax refunds that we owe to our people. With a sizeable tax refund liability still on the books, only strict adherence to the tax refund laws of Guam and no more withdrawals from the Tax Refund Trust Fund will place us on a path in the right direction.”

Pangelinan refers to the almost $50 million that has been withdrawn/transferred from the Income Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund between FY 2011 to the present for non-tax-refund related things such as operations. Shortly after the almost $50 millionth dollar was taken from the Trust Fund, the Guam Legislature filed a Declaratory Judgment for action on these non-tax-refund related withdrawals. In addition, there is also a tax refund Permanent Injunction that requires that tax refunds are paid in a timely manner.

“If these withdrawals/transfers did not take place, we would have been in a better position than we are in today. The brave taxpayers who filed suit against the governor for the timely payment of tax refunds continues to fight him in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, because the governor has appealed the tax refund Permanent Injunction,” explained Pangelinan.

“We continue to have an over $83 million tax refund liability. Moving forward, I continue to urge the governor for strict adherence to all the tax refund laws of Guam and to stop wasting money by fighting the District Court and the taxpayers with his appeal of the tax refund Permanent Injunction,” concluded Pangelinan

For further information, please contact the Offices of Senator Pangelinan at 473-4236 or email at office@senbenp.com.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (May 23, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan (D), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee) held a public hearing on Bill 309-32, which aims to utilize any additional, unanticipated Section 30 Funds received in FY 2014 for the following:

  1. An additional 20 full-time police officers at the Guam Police Department for Fiscal Year 2014;
  2. Additional prosecution capacity and victim advocates at the Office of the Attorney General;
  3. The unpaid 50% owed to GovGuam employees under the General Pay Plan that the governor did not implement;
  4. The expansion of the George Washington High School (GWHS) to accommodate its existing student population to alleviate overcrowding;
  5. The retroactive payment of salary increments to law enforcement officers pursuant to Public Law 29-105

Over the past two years, the additional Section 30 Funds that GovGuam received could not have been taken into consideration by the Guam Legislature during its budget sessions as the information was withheld by the Executive Branch until the Legislature had secured the information from other sources. In the previous fiscal year, when GovGuam received an unexpected additional $15 million in Section 30 Funds, the Democrats demanded that the governor use those funds to pay income tax refunds as paying tax refunds did not require additional authority; and he did.

“We have received information that there is a potential of an additional $20 million that GovGuam may receive this fiscal year 2014 and we wanted to ensure that if these funds come in, that they are prioritized for these initiatives,” explained Pangelinan. “I urge the governor to work toward getting any additional Section 30 Funds GovGuam can get so that we can bolster our police force, enhance our prosecution capacity at the Attorney General’s office, and pay our GovGuam employees that were not provided their full 100% pay.”

Superintendent of Education Jon Fernandez and the Guam Education Board opposed the specific provision in Bill 309 that expanded the GWHS campus which then would have rendered the Tiyan High School unnecessary, but they did support funding of the 100% of the General Pay Plan pay increases for non-instructional employees at the GDOE that is provided for in Bill 309

“Although we have received concerns regarding certain provisions in the bill by the Guam Department of Education (GDOE), we do not want to discount the good that Bill 309 can do. We will continue to work with the GDOE to ensure that both GovGuam and the education department find a financially feasible solution to the issues of overcrowding in our schools and to increase instructional effectiveness,” concluded Pangelinan.

 

For further information, please contact the Offices of Senator Pangelinan at 473-4236 or email at office@senbenp.com

 

Housing economic policy on Guam

AS A senator for the Guam Legislature, I have continued to push for economic policy that enhances and promotes the local economy while protecting the people and environment of Guam from external decisions that are made that may have lasting effects and impacts on our lives and on our island.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) recently held its Full Committee Mark on the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which included a provision to require the Secretary of Defense to provide a report on the feasibility of utilizing public-private housing ventures (PPVs) on Guam which involves utilizing the existing private sector real estate market for military housing needs. Such a provision is aligned with my push for the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI).

Back in June 2012, I was asked to participate in the Bond Buyer’s 7th Annual Financing Military Housing Privatization Conference in Washington, D.C. As the keynote speaker, I had a unique opportunity to share our culture and rich history with many who did not know what Guam was or where Guam is located. I was able to present on the MHPI, which I believed would better serve our community and economy with the proposed military relocation from Okinawa to Guam.

The original military buildup agreement saw a similar arrangement to the MHPI, but with the government of Japan, through Special Purpose Entities, gaining from the construction of military housing projects. I was against this proposal, as it did not benefit the people and businesses of Guam. The MHPI can assist individual landowners and businesses on Guam by allowing them to partner with developers and bankers to develop housing throughout the island. Building these subdivisions throughout the island will generate commerce for small and large businesses in certain feasible areas on Guam. The government of Guam can benefit from additional tax revenue generated as a result of increased economic activity through these MHPI developments.

For those unfamiliar with the term, MHPI is considered a tool to help the military improve the quality of life of its service members by focusing on housing improvements that leverage private sector financing as a means of efficiently providing housing at a much faster rate and far more efficiently and cost effectively than typical military construction allows. The MHPI, created in 1966, allows the Department of Defense to enter into agreements with private developers through a competitive bidding process to own, maintain and operate housing during a 50-year lease agreement. Another part of the MHPI grants service members with a Basic Allowance permitting them to choose to live in private-sector housing.

The implementation of the MHPI on Guam could contribute significantly to our economy in the form of jobs and tax revenues that would allow our government to reinvest into our community. There are good examples of the MHPI in action – one only needs to look at jurisdictions such as Hawaii, Texas, Kentucky, Virginia, California and New York.

As I have asked before, if it was successful in those states, couldn’t it work and be successful here?

Now that we are in the comment period of the draft supplemental environmental impact statement, it is important to find federal policies that would have positive impacts to the people of Guam and our economy. By incorporating our local government and private-sector stakeholders, the Department of Defense would be able to show that it has a vested interest in the sustainability of our culture and natural resources as much as they have a vested interest to be here in Guam. This type of cooperation and good faith effort would go a long way to resolving many of the conflicts that the DSEIS currently presents.

We are at a critical point in our history. With the completion of public scoping meetings for the DSEIS, we have a short opportunity to communicate our remaining issues and concerns. We also have the ability to capitalize on federal laws and programs, such as the MHPI that could have positive economic impacts. I am encouraged that the public-private housing ventures feasibility study was included in the Full HASC Mark of the FY 2015 NDAA, but I am hopeful and will work toward the full MHPI program being implemented on Guam if it is necessary.

I also remain steadfast in that any military relocation requires adequate discussion and dialogue with those that will be most impacted and affected – the people of Guam. If the people of Guam are unable to speak and voice their concerns at the same level as the United States government, we will remain unable to ensure a future that the people envision and have the ability to control. As there continues to be decisions being made that will impact all our lives, I urge the public to continue to follow and take part in any and all discussions regarding our future.

Si Yu’os Ma’åse’

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (May 21, 2014 – Hagåtña, Guam) – On April 16, 2014 Senator Vicente (ben) C. Pangelinan (D) sent a letter to Senator Brant McCreadie (R), regarding the Republican senator’s incessant push for his prison construction Bills 172-32 and 313-32.

The Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Legal Affairs, Retirement, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee) found that there were significant deficiencies in Bill 172-32 and also pointed out that neither Bills 172-32 nor 313-32 were necessary as there was existing statute already in place that allows for the financing of the construction of public safety facilities. The statute was enacted almost a decade ago.

In his April 16th letter, Pangelinan stated, “The Committee requests a response and explanation from the author of the Bill 172-32 relative to the need for either Bill 172-32 or Bill 313-32 when Chapter 59, Division 5, Title 5 of the Guam Code Annotated, also known as The Public Safety Facilities Construction Initiative Act of 2005 provides financing authority…”

“There has been an enormous amount of lobbying for these prison construction bills by the author, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, other stakeholders, and interested parties,” stated Pangelinan. “Now we are finding out that the author did not do his homework when he introduced two separate bills that provided authorization for something already authorized in Guam law.”

During the 28th Guam Legislature, then-Senator Ray Tenorio (R) authored The Public Safety Facilities Construction Initiative Act of 2005 which provided financing authority for similar purposes as Bills 172 and 313.

“Given the season, it is not surprising but rather amusing that the author is pretending to have just come across this information, when I led him to the exact chapter and verse in the Guam Code Annotated over a month ago. I am further surprised that the Lieutenant Governor forgot that he authored a public law almost a decade ago for similar purposes before he lobbied for these bills. The Committee performs its due diligence in reviewing bills, and because the author admits that his bills were actually unnecessary, the Committee will continue working on other important matters,” concluded Pangelinan.

 

Updating the programmatic agreement

 

THE status update on the Programmatic Agreement (PA) provided by the Guam State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), Lynda Aguon, during last Tuesday’s roundtable was considerably informative.

As anticipated, there are several things people would have been able to walk away with if you tuned in.

Unique position – Guam SHPO

The first, in March 2011, the Guam SHPO signed the PA, relative to the realignment of the Marines from Okinawa to Guam, with representatives of the Department of Defense and the Federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The PA also satisfies Section 106 requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1969 for federal agencies to consider how their efforts will affect historic properties. Although there was significant pressure surrounding the signing off of the 2011 PA, the Guam SHPO explained that she did so at the time to ensure that a formal process could be put in place to safeguard the preservation and protection of our historical properties in light of the military buildup.

Second, we are quite fortunate to have the Guam SHPO listed within the government of Guam. It is one of the most unique positions within the government, created by statute, and placed at the Department of Parks and Recreation to manage the affairs of historic preservation on Guam. For all intents and purposes, the position of the Guam SHPO was established to have maximum flexibility, independence and freedom to function as necessary to protect our historical past and preserve our future.

27 new historical sites

Another issue that was raised was the historical projects in the PA, a list referred to as “Appendix E,” that would be affected by the DOD undertaking. The Guam SHPO confirmed that, to date, there is an update to Appendix E. Given DOD’s proposed preferred alternative to use Northwest Field, more accurately Tailalo – a more pristine forest that will require bulldozing and disturbance at the live fire training range complex – the issue of Ritidian as a designated surface danger zone was also discussed. Both the Guam SHPO and the Joint Guam Program Office (JGPO) confirmed that there are 27 new historical sites in the proposed area that would be affected, and would be required to go through the historical survey and plans. The Guam SHPO stated that, to date, she has not received a PA memo outlining the pertinent information needed for review and concurrence of their findings.

New PA

Apparently, what also seems to be quite significant is that because there is an entirely new preferred alternative never before discussed or presented to the people of Guam, outlined in the draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS), a new PA may be warranted. As stated by JGPO staff, the alternatives presently laid out in the 2014 draft SEIS are completely different, and never before seen in the 2010 draft EIS. Although the current PA grants great flexibility to DOD to change its plan, it does not give the Guam SHPO the ability to exercise the same authority to carry out the plan in a way that is fair and effective for Guam.

Access plan that is public

Due to concerns raised by the community, the Public Access Plan was raised. This plan is expected to grant the public the ability to visit historic cultural sites located on DOD-held land. The current access plan continues to wane and even regressed as testified to by a concurring party and community organizations, while the public awaits approval and completion of an access plan that actually includes the public.
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FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (May 12, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan (D), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee), in reviewing the March 2014 Department of Administration Cash Balance Report, is concerned that the cash balance in the Income Tax Refund Checking Account was $2.5 million, but had over $3.8 million of outstanding checks, leaving a negative balance of over $1.3 million.\

“I express my concern about the cash balance in the tax refund bank account as reported by the Department of Administration not being sufficient to cover the over $3.8 million in tax refund checks that have not been cashed and remain outstanding,” explained Pangelinan. “When individuals and businesses do this, we call it floating or kiting checks and can be illegal.”

Especially given the withdrawals from the Tax Refund Trust Account over the past three and a half years of almost $50 million for operational and other purposes, Pangelinan explains that it is imperative that the Executive Branch ensure that there is sufficient cash to cover the checks our government issues. A Declaratory Judgment was filed with the Guam Supreme Court for action on these non-tax-refund related withdrawals from the Tax Refund Trust Account.

“Tax refunds have not been paid for those who filed after February 7, 2014 and it will be almost 4 months since those last filings were paid, which leaves a lot more tax refunds to be paid this year. The Tax Refund Trust Account allows our government to ensure that we have sufficient cash reserved from our tax collections to cover our tax refund requirements each year. It is imperative that such withdrawals from our Tax Refund Accounts for government operations do not occur again and that the required deposits are made each month if we are to comply with the court order to pay tax refunds in a timely manner,” concluded Pangelinan.

For further information, please contact the Offices of Senator Pangelinan at 473-4236 or email at office@senbenp.com.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (May 9, 2014 – Hagåtña, GU) – Senator Vicente “ben” C. Pangelinan (D), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Public Debt, Retirement, Legal Affairs, Public Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Land (Committee) will hold a roundtable meeting on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 beginning at 9:00 AM at the Guam Legislature Public Hearing Room and has invited Ms. Lynda Aguon, the Guam State Historic Preservation Officer to provide a status update on the Programmatic Agreement, as well consulting parties involved in the release of the document.

In March 2011, the Guam State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) signed a Programmatic Agreement, also referred to as a “PA” relative to the realignment of marines from Okinawa to Guam, with representatives from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The PA satisfies Section 106 requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1969 for Federal agencies to consider how their efforts will affect historic properties.

The preservation of historical and cultural resources is an important component of the PA. As the  Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) public hearings begin on Saturday, May 17, 2014, this roundtable meeting is intended to provide the community with information related to the Programmatic Agreement that will assist the public in formulating questions, and submitting oral testimony and written public comments for the SEIS.  “Also, the issue of public access to historical and cultural sites on DoD-held property is just one concern that has been raised since the 2011 PA was signed.  There are other issues with regard to historic preservation, especially with all the military-related construction underway, that the community should know about.  I look forward to these beginning discussions,” stated Senator Pangelinan.

To view the Programmatic Agreement and its appendices, visit our website at: www.senbenp.com

To view DSEIS documents, visit the Draft SEIS link:

http://guammarines.s3.amazonaws.com/static/draftSEIS/Guam_Draft_SEIS_APR_2014_CD.pdf

For further information, please contact the Offices of Senator Vicente (ben) Cabrera Pangelinan at 473-4236 or email at office@senbenp.com