Attorney: Liquid fuel tax not likely to be under PUC’s jurisdiction


By John Borja | Pacific Daily News


The legal counsel for the Guam Public Utilities Commission said tax adjustments are handled by the Guam Legislature, and the liquid fuel tax is not likely to be within the commission’s jurisdiction.


Attorney Frederick Horecky’s comments follow Sen. Tommy Morrison’s recent inquiry to the commission on whether or not it would be open to the idea of regulating the liquid fuel tax.


Under existing laws, the commission has authority over rates and surcharges for public utilities and telecommunication companies, but not taxes, Horecky said.


He added that the PUC may be asked to submit testimony to the Legislature when dealing with measures related to the fuel tax, but the commission is not the decider in tax regulations.


“Taxes don’t only affect ratepayers. It affects everyone,” Horecky said.


Morrison, R-Umatac, sponsored a bill-turned-law that will raise the liquid fuel tax by four cents over the next three years in order to gain more funding for road repairs.


Morrison opined the Public Utilities Commission would be more impartial with regulation, citing the risk of political influence with lawmakers in the decision-making process.


“Generally, under our Organic Act, the Legislature is responsible for assessing taxes,” Horecky said.


According to the Organic Act, “Taxes and assessments on property, internal revenues, sales, license fees, and royalties for franchise, privileges, and concessions may be imposed for the purposes of the government of Guam as may be uniformly provided by the Legislature of Guam.”


Horecky said he is unsure if the provision could be changed to transfer authority of the liquid fuel tax over to the commission.


Meanwhile, the liquid fuel tax increase is being challenged with claims that the passing of the bill is in violation of Guam law. The law states that tax adjustments cannot go into effect without approval of Guam voters during a referendum at a general election.


Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson has been asked to suspend the liquid fuel tax increase and take action against the senators who voted in favor of Morrison’s bill.


News by Pacific Daily News

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