Friday, November 21, 2008

Bill seeks legal action against feds on COFA
Friday, 21 November 2008
by Therese Hart
Marinas Variety News Staff

SENATOR Frank Blas Jr. has introduced a bill appropriating $200,000 to the Office of the Attorney General for its representation of the govSen. Frank Blas Jr.
ernment of Guam in a legal action to claim more than $400 million in Compact Impact funds from the U.S. government. “We need to take this conversation to the next level. For many years, there continues to be that acknowledgement by the federal government that they owe us money,” Blas said.

Blas said the federal government owes Guam over $400 million in reimbursement costs for hosting Freely Associated States citizens who are using public services.

“And they think that what they’ve been giving us annually--$14.2 million--that it would suffice for the total cost of what we actually spend, and it’s not,” Blas said.

Bill 385 identifies fiscal year 2009 Guam Highway Fund revenues as the funding source for the legal expenses.

The AGO can hire personnel, procure professional services and incur other costs necessary to successfully pursue the case.

The bill also exempts AGO from the restriction on the hiring of limited term appointments and unclassified employees.

Blas has written to Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo regarding this issue but he said the congresswoman has done nothing to look into the matter.

“It’s like, we should be thankful we’re getting $14.2 million. I’m sorry, but no. We no longer should stand being treated this way-- that we’re going to continue to provide these services and not get paid properly,” Blas said.

The issue was raised this year during the Association of Pacific Island Legislators, hosted by Guam lawmakers and a resolution was passed and sent to the president and members of Congress. Another Resolution 141 passed by the 29th Guam Legislature dealing with the same issue was also transmitted to Washington.

“We’ve asked and we’ve pleaded for proper reimbursement for the cost of those services that we provide on their behalf. The message is, we’re not going to be taken lightly anymore. We need this money and (the federal government) owes it to us,” Blas said.

“And they are in violation of being able to reimburse us. This is the basis for us to say, this is your law, you say you’re going to reimburse us and now this lawsuit is being initiated so that we can get that reimbursement,” said Blas.

He said Guam us in the middle of a situation in which the community has to “debate among ourselves” as to where to find money to meet certain federal mandates.”

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