2019 Budget proposal could create budget shortfalls for Guam, US territories

by Feb 22, 2018Federal Government, Headlines0 comments

The Trump administration unveiled the budget plan for fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019), which detailed budget cuts for the Office of Insular Affairs. The proposed budget reduces assistance to Guam and other US territories across several sectors such as immigration, technical assistance and wildlife preservation and safety control. The President’s budget proposal greatly reduces domestic programs, while the 2018 FY request directs funding into military expansion and training.

In a press release Guam Territorial Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (D) expressed concerns regarding the budget proposal plan to reduce funding for the island and other US territories. She proclaimed in the press release, “I am disappointed the President’s budget makes significant cuts to the Office of Insular Affairs for programs that directly benefit Guam and the other territories. Our communities are already struggling with constrained budgets, and the tax law enacted last year by Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration will worsen our local challenges.” Outlined in the president’s budget are requests to:

  •      eliminate $3 million in discretionary compact-impact funding;
  •      reduce technical assistance to the territories by $2 million;
  •      cut $639,000 from brown tree snake control; and
  •      reduce funding for the Coral Reef Initiative and natural resources, which includes money to fight invasive species, by $296,000.

Overall the cutbacks amount to an almost 18 percent decrease in support for Guam and the US territories.

Another area of concern is the total funding loss of $3 million to the Compact-Impact initiative that aids Guam and the other US territories with the ‘impact’ of Free Association State (FAS) migrants living on the islands. The Compact Impact entails how, “each year, Guam and other affected jurisdictions submit estimates for the cost of providing public service to migrants under the Compacts of Free Association between the United States and three FAS: the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau.” Although, US territories propose estimates for the cost it falls short every year, and as Guam maintains the majority of FAS migrants it disproportionately affects the island. According to Bordallo, during the fiscal year 2016 Guam received only $16.2 million from the US Department of the interior, which did not cover the impact of almost $147 million compact impact of FAS immigration. Reduction of Compact impact funding for Guam comes as a blow in contrast to the increase in military spending that could amount to up to $52 billion over the next decade.

Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget request comes on the heels of the recently approved Compact Impact Relief Act that was introduced by Representative Bordallo, Territorial Delegate Sablan, and Congresswomen Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawai’i on January 10, 2018 to the House Committee on Natural Resources, and will be reviewed by the House of Representatives.

The bill was reintroduced this year and specifies how maintaining federal funding for compact impact to Guam and other jurisdictions would offset the influx of FAS migration. Investments proposed by the Compact Impact Relief Act outlines support for hospitals, public schools, federal and community service programs such as Americorps, in areas that serve FAS immigrants. Bordallo advocates for opening up volunteer opportunities for FAS individuals as a way to give back to the community and for migrants to “learn valuable skills.” The key component of the initiative is to allow Compact-Impact migrants to partake in these federally funded programs.

It remains to be seen if the Budget Proposal of FY 2019 will have an impact—if any, on the decision of Congress to approve the Compact Impact Relief Act.

*The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for coordinating federal policy with respect to the territories of the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and administering and overseeing US federal assistance provided to the freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association. On behalf of the Secretary, the Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas executes these responsibilities through the Office of Insular Affairs whose mission is to foster economic opportunities, promote government efficiency, and improve the quality of life for the people of the insular areas.