By Nancy I. Maanao
(Tumon, Guam) Several senators asked the governor's financial officers in a virtual meeting today about tax refunds. Bureau of Budget Management and Research director did what he does best in these meetings with senators: he says a whole lot of nothing.
Sen. Joe San Agustin conducted the meeting of the Special Economic Service beginning at 1:30 p.m. Thursday for senators to be apprised of the government's financial condition from the directors of BBMR, Administration, and Revenue and Taxation. Fourteen of the 15 senators participated, and several asked about tax refunds after DRT director Dafne Shimizu said her agency had processed $73 million in 2019 tax refunds that are ready to be paid.
Mr. Carlson took senators through a vortex of standard political jargon on the government's rose-tinted projections for the remainder of the fiscal year based on March revenue collection data. "It's not as bad as we thought," he said.
The budget director said revenues are tracking to collect at only 1.02 percent under adopted revenue projections for Fiscal Year 2020, so no adjustment to the budget was needed through a statutory-required fiscal realignment plan. A new budget submission from the governor is triggered once revenue tracking shows a 3.00 percent decline.
One percent of the revenue level equals less than $10 million of the entire budget, while the provision for tax refunds that is backed out of revenues accounts for $125 million.
Despite the rosy projections by Adelup, Mr. Carlson continued evading senators questions about tax refunds, which are severely behind in payment to recipients by comparison to the Calvo administration. Ms. Shimizu confirmed that no tax refunds for 2019 have been paid, despite an erroneous declaration by Adelup to the contrary. "We've only paid for filings up through January 10, and as you know 2019 filings didn't start until January 27, 2020," she said.
Any time throughout the hours-long meeting senators tried to get answers out of DOA director Ed Birn, whose agency is responsible for the actual payment of tax refunds, Mr. Carlson would take the question.
The meeting became tense between Mr. Carlson and three senators: Therese Terlaje, Regine Biscoe Lee, and Sabina Perez, who each took turns asking for clarification and answers on where money is being spent, and why the budget director's answers either were contradictory, or too vague.