Leaders identify $50M for GMH fixes; land for new GMH identified

Lou Leon Guerrero is asking Guam’s senators to approve the purchase of land in Barrigada for the new hospital, as she informed them as well of $50 million in funding she and Jesse Lujan identified to fix current problems at Guam Memorial Hospital.

“I join in the Legislature’s concern over the deteriorating state of our only public hospital, and I have committed $20M in ARPA funding to address GMH’s most immediate structural concerns,” the governor wrote in a letter today to Therese Terlaje, the legislative speaker. “Additionally, Senator Jesse Lujan has agreed to amend Bill 164-37, to commit $30M in appropriations to address GMH’s outstanding vendor invoices.”

Bill No. 164-37 by Mr. Lujan will appropriate the balance of the so-called “unappropriated revenues” of the General Fund from Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023, to GMH. It is the lone subject of an emergency session called by Ms. Terlaje that was supposed to occur Monday.

“While the session will be rescheduled due to the approach of [now Typhoon] Bolaven, I write to you now requesting that in the same emergency session, you consider the attached Bill, which would authorize the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission (“GALC”) to sell or lease certain crown lands to the government of Guam at fair market value for use as the site of a new medical complex,” Ms. Leon Guerrero wrote to the speaker today.

The bill will authorize the sale or lease of a total 61 acres of Barrigada crown land land from one part of the government to another. The lands – six adjoining lots – are held by the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission. The governor’s legislation would authorize its sale or lease to the Guam Economic Development Authority at fair market value and after a negotiation. The GALC already approved a resolution on July 26 this year “approving and designating the identified lots as the site for a new medical complex, and authorizing the survey and appraisal of the identified lots,” according to the draft legislation.

“It is in the best interest of our community that we proceed with the expediency required by this moment in our island’s history,” Ms. Leon Guerrero wrote in her letter transmitting the draft. bill and requesting its inclusion in the impending emergency session. “GMH can no longer meet the needs of our people, no matter how many costly renovations are performed on its facility. A new hospital is necessary for the continued health and well- being of our community. We simply cannot afford further delays. Our people have waited long enough.”

The bill has yet to be introduced by a senator and has not had a public hearing. The speaker, however, has the power to declare that emergency conditions exist that affect the health and safety of the public and so waive the legislative public hearing requirement for bills.

While the identified $50 million in ARPA and General Fund revenue will help to fix some of GMH’s current facilities problems, the governor wrote, “The bottom line is that our existing hospital is operating well past its useful life, and renovations will not cure its aging infrastructure.”

BBMR’s concerns with Lujan’s appropriation

Jesse Lujan

While the governor herself pegs the amount of money Mr. Lujan’s Bill No. 164-37 will provide to GMH at a $30 million figure, neither the bill itself nor its fiscal note from the Bureau of Budget and Management Research makes any such claim.

The bill’s language is general, appropriating “All unappropriated Fiscal Year 2022 and 2023 Audited Excess Funds” to GMH.

Among the problems, BBMR points out in its fiscal note, is that the Fiscal Year 2022 audit has not been released, and the Fiscal Year 2023 audit has not even begun as of September 15, 2023.

In fact, the BBMR informed senators in its fiscal note, the legislature’s recent practice of appropriating the “unappropriated” fund balances from previous fiscal years without first understanding the financial situation through audited financials of those fiscal years has possibly rendered $19 million in phantom appropriations in Fiscal Year 2022 alone. These are “effectively empty promises to the affected government entities and programs,” the fiscal note states.

Despite this fiscal note, Ms. Leon Guerrero under whose office BBMR operates, wrote in her letter that Mr. Lujan’s appropriation proposal will yield $30 million to GMH.

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