Guam - We're just days away from when the scheduled series of hearings will begin. And according to Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz, he wants to know whether the proposed cuts and potential savings will be realized now or later. Governor Eddie Calvo's Omnibus Fiscal Reform Bill (now Bill 507) will be heard starting Monday when Cruz's Committee on Government Operations holds a roundtable assessment of the measure, bringing together public sector human resource professionals down to community stakeholders to determine the full impact of the spending cuts bill.
"Is this going to be something that's going to be realized over an extended period and is it going to satisfy what he wants additional money to be able to pay for the income tax refunds. And if this is going to be pennywise and poundfoolish, then maybe we shouldn't go through with it. Let's see," said the vice-speaker.
Calvo says it needs to be passed, noting, "It's correcting our long standing problems of structural imbalance, ensuring that we never spend more than we take in and at the same time fortifying moving forward that we will never the burden of bad management of finances on the backs of taxpayers."
Cruz meanwhile wants to know just how much the people of Guam from women on maternity leave to National Guardsmen on deployment to teachers and firemen will be impacted. He has since asked and has yet to receive the additional information on how the Calvo Administration came up with the projected savings estimated up to $70 million. Governor Calvo found it ironic that such data is being requested when lawmakers didn't require as much nor a public hearing when it decided to increase survivor benefits by 20% in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget that Calvo says will cost GovGuam an additional $64 million annually.
Cruz, who introduced the amendment, admits it was a mistake he hopes to learn from. "When I did my initial calculations when I was asked to, I saw that it was going to cost about a little over $2 million a year and I had thought it had been approved by the Retirement Fund," he shared with KUAM News. "So I sent it through, so I didn't see that it was that major. I'm not going to make that mistake again, and he's pointed it out to me that I made a mistake, I'll admit that it was and I should have had a hearing and I'm going to have this hearing now."
And all the reason why the information is needed now. Governor Calvo expressed is appreciation to the vice speaker for finally hearing his bill and looks forward to meaningful dialogue. "I want to congratulate the vice-speaker - especially in an election season dealing with a measure that deals with cuts, however necessary, it's not the easiest thing to present to a body," he said.
Ultimately, Cruz says most people probably don't know what's in the bill and how it impacts them and encourages them to read the measure on the Guam Legislature's web site.