- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) - A newly released report from Guam’s public auditor says the island received more than $550 million from the federal government in fiscal 2015.

The report released Friday comes weeks before the Commission on Decolonization is set to discuss whether island residents should be able to decide on the fate of Guam. If put on the November ballot, Guam voters would decide whether the island should seek statehood, free association with the U.S. or exit from the U.S.

Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks said an independent Guam would have trouble affording all the public services it’s expected to provide without federal assistance, The Pacific Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/29gHVay).

“The federal government is a major player here,” she said.

According to the report, the $550 million Guam received from the U.S. government accounted for about 45 percent of the $1.2 billion that the island spent in fiscal 2015.

The federal funds included $109 million for households under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, $65 million for Guam’s public schools and $29 million for highway-related projects.

Brooks said she has long been an advocate of Guam statehood after “status quo” no longer became part of a future Guam vote on political self-determination.

Victoria Leon Guerrero, co-chair of the independence task force under the Decolonization Commission, is against having the issue on the ballot. She said she doesn’t think there is enough time for the public to be educated on the issue to make an informed vote. A vote on political status would be better in two years, she said.

Guerrero said an independent Guam would have several options for providing public services to residents and could expand its economy by opening up shipping, tourism and other trade sectors.

If Guam voters were to vote for independence, Guerrero said, the U.S. is required under international law to ensure a transition period allowing certain forms of assistance to continue.

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