A group of senators have introduced legislation that would "protect public funds from unauthorized expenditures."
Minority Leader Sen. Telo Taitague and Sens. Therese Terlaje, James Moylan and Joe San Agustin introduced Bill 371-35 (COR) seeking to prohibit Adelup from spending excess General Fund revenues without legislative approval, a press release stated.
According to the release, Title 5 Guam Code Annotated Section 22436(a), "requires that all unappropriated annual General Fund revenues collected in excess of appropriations shall be used to liquidate obligations for refunds, earned income tax credits and prior years' vendor payables."
Administration officials announced in November 2019 that excess fiscal year 2019 General Fund revenues would be used to address the government's more than $80 million deficit. Adelup then indicated, earlier this year, that the same revenues would be set aside to mitigate fiscal 2020 budget shortfalls associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency.
If passed, Bill 371 requires legislative approval before unappropriated General Fund revenues are used for any purpose, in order to ensure transparency and accountability of excess public funds. Moreover, the measure upholds the separation of powers doctrine by recognizing that the power of appropriations is reserved for the Legislature, the press release states.
"I've asked Adelup to cite the legal authority that allows the governor to use excess FY 2019 revenues outside of an appropriation by the Legislature, and the governor maintains such power is derived from 5GCA Section 22436(a). I then reached out to the legislative counsel regarding the same question and was informed that the governor's use of unappropriated FY 2019 revenues for any purpose without a legislative appropriation, would strip the Legislature of its Organic Act authority to appropriate funds. An opinion on this matter was also sought from the attorney general, and his office stated that current law authorizes Adelup to use excess funds but only for refunds, earned income tax credits and prior years' vendor payables as provided by law," Sen. Taitague stated.
"The use of unanticipated public funds – to reduce government debt, address a public health emergency or for any other purpose – must be authorized by the Legislature through an appropriation. For the benefit of current and future governors and senators, Bill 371 is a straightforward but significant piece of legislation that seeks to appropriately deal with Adelup's misguided assertion that it can spend surplus revenues without legislative approval. With the introduction of Bill 371 today, I ask the Committee on Rules and the oversight committee chairperson to act on this measure right away – and before we address the FY 2021 Budget."