Senator Michael F.Q. San Nicolas today proffered two amendments to the budget bill which sought to swap special fund sources which have come up short in the current fiscal year for a more reliable general fund appropriation.
“While these special funds were created in an attempt to prioritize education and health, because they came up short this fiscal year and may come up short next year, they have had the opposite effect. Our education and health priorities are getting less money because of these funding sources. They should instead be paid from the General fund,” said Senator San Nicolas.
His first amendment was to replace the funding for Education from the Territorial Educational Facilities Fund (TEFF) which comes from property taxes, to the General Fund which comes from a variety of sources including income taxes, business taxes, etc. Budget chairman BJ Cruz affirmed that while the projected revenue for the TEFF was $27 million in the current fiscal year, only $21 has actually come in and only $14 million was remitted to DOE. Senator San Nicolas’s amendment would fully fund GDOE from the General Fund, eliminating the risk of TEFF shortfalls.
“TEFF was already 22% short this year and this budget bill before us now is projecting a 33% increase next year. If we are serious about prioritizing education we have to choose funding that is reliable for our children,” said Senator San Nicolas.
In a similar amendment, Senator San Nicolas noted that the Healthy Futures fund was short this fiscal year because of millions of dollars of tax credits being redeemed against alcohol and tobacco taxes, a fact uncovered by Budget Chairman BJ Cruz in March of this year. Alcohol and tobacco taxes are the funding sources of the Healthy Futures fund. The San Nicolas amendment would have funded the items receiving Healthy Futures Fund funding with General Fund revenue instead, providing Health with a more reliable funding source.
“We have at least $30 million in tax credits still outstanding, and a substantial majority of those that were redeemed this year were alcohol and tobacco taxes. If this pattern continues then we will short the Healthy Futures Funds and ultimately our healthcare priorities GMH, Public Health, and Guam Behavioral Health & Wellness. We must make every effort to fully fund our priorities,” said Senator San Nicolas.
Both amendments failed to garner the necessary votes to pass.
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