Guam - Governor Eddie Calvo began his first State of the Island Address by announcing that his Administration is coordinating relief efforts to help the victims of Friday's deadly disaster in Japan. Last week the country was struck by the worst earthquake and tsunami in its history.
The governor would then move to his vision for the Guamanian Century of Prosperity, which requires a partnership with the legislature to bridge the divide between prosperity and poverty. Governor Calvo said the cruel cycle of poverty must end.
The governor discussed the government's financial situation which he said was in a critical state. He says the government's deficit has ballooned by $84 million to where it is now at $349 million. He said there were four options on the table: to raise $349 million, cut $349 million, borrow $349 million or a combination of two or three of these options. The governor said he will not raise taxes but rather enhance tax collection and enforcement at Rev & Tax, which could bring in nearly $40 million. The governor also said he will work with the Chamber of Commerce and other industry experts to possibly explore a new tax system to help bring in revenue.
The Administration will go to the federal government with a renewed request to obtain reimbursement to for the earned income tax credit, which could save $40 million annually. And an additional $5 million annually could come from the reconciliation and update of section 30 monies.
As for the Guam Memorial Hospital, which we've heard about a lot these days, the governor said his administration is in the process of hiring a top notch experience permanent hospital administrator. He added that the current management team is stabilizing the finances and improving patient care. The governor said he will not tolerate anything short of excellence, and that there must be transparency and accountability, GMH is every bit a matter of public scrutiny. The governor said he will always side with patients, as they are who matter most.
The governor also recognized a few heroes in our community; first, Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz for the introduction of his Bills 33 and 34, which Calvo signed into law. Both deal with child sex crimes and the latter of which was vehemently opposed by the Catholic Church on Guam. The governor said of Cruz, "Your actions, my friend, truly were heroic...you fought for our children in the face of adversity."
Governor Calvo also recognized Guam State Historic Preservation Officer Lynda Aguon, who last week signed the controversial Programmatic Agreement. Borrowing from the words of the vice speaker, he said that her actions were a "profile in courage". He said that as long as he is in office, she will have all the support she needs to preserve and promote our culture.
As for the military buildup, Calvo said it is upon us and that a billion dollars in projects will soon start enhancing our economy. The governor said he and his administration will ensure that the Department of Defense sticks with its concessions such as their commitment to a "One Guam" approach and "Green Guam" approach.
But not all was good when it came to the feds, as Governor Calvo said he will fight for Fena. He said is has to he will take Senator Tom Ada and other senators on a march to Fena and go as far as the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the water that belongs to the Guamanian people. In the Defense Authorization Act that would sell Fena back to the people of Guam at the cost of some $300 million, this same law would also require the Defense Department has a seat on the Consolidated Commission on Utilities.
The governor said its examples like the feud over Fena that we must exercise our right to self-determination. The governor added that he will work with senators Rory Respicio and Ben Pangelinan on funding the long awaited plebiscite.
But the governor said the key to Guam's prosperity is not the buildup, but rather the education of our children. He said this is the gateway to the Guamanian Century. The governor said in the coming days he will sign an executive order to launch his Classroom to Careers initiative, an economic master plan linking industry development to workforce creation through education excellence.
In closing, the governor said the strength of this island is in the character of all us.