One Island, One People, One Culture
By Governor Eddie Baza Calvo
Guam - Ray and I have had the great fortune of meeting with many people since we came to office. We're touring neighborhoods, schools and GovGuam agencies. The one thing that's become apparent is that there are a lot of people who need help. We're far behind in making public schools centers of excellence. And GovGuam agencies are well under-budgeted and –staffed to carry out all their mandates.
We've also been forthcoming about how there simply isn't enough money coming into the government to fix these problems at once. We proposed a bond that will provide the cash needed to begin fixing these problems. We can pay all the tax refunds owed by Christmas, pay other obligations, and give us the room needed to focus efforts on the future. I understand that this frustrates you, especially since the government keeps floating these bonds every few years. You get promise after promise that things will change, but here we are… with a $349 million deficit and you are owed a tax refund for the past three years.
The difference between then and now is the person making the promise. I've made tough decisions that led to rapid growth when I was a manager in the private sector. As a senator and former head of the finance committee, we led the only two surplus budgets in the past decade. As Governor, I've made politically unpopular decisions to cut costs and raise revenues. And, to demonstrate our commitment to strict fiscal policy, we lobbied hard against proposed legislation that purported to pay tax refunds, but was a furlough and empty promise in disguise. We didn't care about the political implications or the ‘spin' that was put on the subject. We knew the legislation was wrong and we worked quickly to defeat it. This is something even Standard & Poors recognizes about this new administration.
One of the loudest calls for fiscal restraint is to cut the GovGuam workforce. Indeed, Bill No. 140 would have forced these cuts. But what's missing from that argument are two facts. One, nearly 3,500 employees have already been cut from GovGuam over the past 13 years. Two, there's not much to cut outside of teachers, public safety officers, health professionals, finance experts, social workers, planners and the small support staff they have. I really don't believe Guam is prepared to lose these people and the services they provide to children and those most in need. The most important message missing in the argument to fire employees is this: Behind all those numbers are the faces of people who work very hard for you.
We saw that very commitment to children this past Thursday. Without a hitch, a government-wide response mobilized to assess, treat and transport hundreds of students stricken with sickness at once. Professionals from DPW, the hospital, Public Health, the police and fire departments and Civil Defense teamed up with public school officials to care for these children. I am so very proud of their work.
Fortunately, these emergencies don't happen every day, but two things do come to mind. First, GovGuam workers, for the most part, care and work hard every day at their jobs. They don't get much praise either. Second, if we had cut the GovGuam workforce like some advocate, how many of these children would have gone unnoticed and uncared for last Thursday?
We're cutting everywhere we can, but we can't cut ourselves into prosperity. This requires growth in our economy and our capacity to provide services. This is why the military buildup is important to our community, on top of the measures we're implementing to improve services and to implement a strategic economic plan. I've heard too much conjecture on the buildup over the past couple weeks. All of it is related to news speculation and conspiracy theories. It's led to a war of words over who is responsible for driving the military out. Well, I've been talking to the folks at the Defense Department, including Under Secretary Robert Work this past Friday. They're not going anywhere. Guam is still part of the plan. Guam will always be important to the country.
Despite our financial and economic problems, there's a great future ahead of us. Nothing can stand in the way of that but ourselves. All that time and energy spent cutting each other down and casting aspersions is valuable time and energy away from reaching our future. I don't agree with the Legislature all the time, but I'm not going to blame senators for having varied and valid opinions about the buildup. I don't always agree with the business community, but I certainly don't believe they are trying to sell Guam to the highest bidder. Sometimes things happen in the government that anger me, but that doesn't mean the entire government is useless and worthless. And while some may want to cut down government workers, those people could take a lesson from those same employees who helped children Thursday. They didn't look at each other and start blaming businesses or senators or other GovGuam workers. They did their job, and they did it together.
See the value each of us brings to the success of Guam – un tano, un taotao, un kostumbren Chamorro – and I guarantee, nothing will stand in our way.
Thank you, and God bless.