Thursday, December 22, 2016

War claims may depend on Trump

It has always been the intention of Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo to work with the president of the United States in order to find the funding to support war claims, according to Bordallo's communications director, Adam Carbullido. 

 Bordallo successfully included the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act in next fiscal year's National Defense Authorization Act, bringing to a head several years' worth of effort to recognize Guam's World War II survivors. 

 However, the war claims act cites Section 30 as a funding source for reparations. Money that comes in excess of fiscal year 2014 Section 30 levels will be utilized for war claims, according to the act. But federal numbers place that threshold at over $120 million – a whole $40 million more than what Guam has been receiving in the last two fiscal years. Section 30 is derived from the federal income taxes of military personnel stationed on the island, immigration fees and miscellaneous duties.

The military buildup is set to steadily increase the amount Guam receives in Section 30 funding but personal income tax revenue projections in the final supplemental environmental impact statement show that, even going into 2028, Guam will only receive about $33 million more in the federal reimbursement. 

 The war claims act functions as an authorization, according to Carbullido, allowing federal officials to proceed with tallying claims and administering the program while Bordallo finds sources that don't impede on local coffers, as Section 30 is already mandated to be remitted to Guam. 

 "We had hoped that it would be President Barack Obama, that (war claims) would pass during his term," Carbullido said. "But President-elect Donald Trump will be submitting his budget proposal to Congress in the first quarter of next year and we want to work closely with Gov. Eddie Calvo, especially because he was part of Trump's campaign." 

 Not including a surge in Section 30 funding, Guam's World War II survivors would need to rely on President Trump to provide an appropriation to fund war claims in his budget proposal – a prospect Bordallo is keen to work on, according to Carbullido. 

 "That has always been the strategy," he added. "We thought we would have a better case if it was under President Obama because he has always been supportive of (war claims) ... but we will also work with Trump when he takes office."

Accumulated amounts
The federal threshold for fiscal 2014 Section 30 funding is exceedingly high compared to what Guam normally receives. It also differs from local calculations.
According to a fiscal 2014 audit of GovGuam finances by the Office of Public Accountability, the government only received about $88 million in Section 30 funding for that year. However, press releases from the late Sen. Ben Pangelinan's website indicate that additional money had come in during fiscal 2014 because it was discovered that some federal agencies had not been providing their share of Section 30 funds.
The Office of Insular Affairs totaled that amount to about $120 million, becoming the baseline for the war claims act. Changing the base year to one with a less substantial threshold would require additional legislation, according to Carbullido.
"I hope that people aren't downplaying the significance of the bill itself because just getting it past the authorization phase – every delegate has tried to get the authorization passed ... Congresswoman Bordallo has been working 14 years to get it authorized," Carbullido said.
He reiterated that Bordallo will be working closely with congressional colleagues and the Trump administration to ensure that there is funding to back up claims that are made.
Meanwhile, the NDAA – and the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act included within it – awaits President Obama's signature for enactment.

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