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Proposed cuts to GFD to be removed

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - The Guam Legislature is filled with firefighters, but it's not likely there will be the same fireworks as Monday night, as Department of Administration director Benita Manglona and Governor Eddie Calvo have announced they plan to remove cuts to the Guam Fire Department from their spending cuts bill.

Governor Calvo said, "I'm withdrawing it - I think there's a viable solution."  He was at the Tamuning Fire Station this afternoon to personally deliver the news that he has decided to withdraw the provisions in his spending cuts bill that would eliminate GFD non-productive pay, reduce GFD overtime by six hours, and eliminate incentive pay. The total savings would have amounted to over $3 million.

Calvo says the provisions were initially made based on past audits and recommendations but a change was made after hearing concerns from firemen and as a result of legislation introduced by Senator Mana Silva Taijeron that would use savings from a recent telecommunications contract to prevent the cuts to GFD. "That's why I'm telling the senators, if there's another way to do things and whether its for firemen, whether its for any other provision that have in there. As long as they can replace it with something else that can make the numbers match," he said.

During last night's roundtable, Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz and several other senators were frustrated at how the current measure was filled with gaps and how Manglona couldn't answer several of their questions on issues from paternity leave to how many employees were eligible to retire. Cruz added several things were revealed including how a Human Resources Officers Coordinating Council hasn't convened for years and felt statements made from hr professionals during last night's hearing indicated that they weren't consulted when writing-up Bill 507.

"Because they didn't talk to people, they maybe went out to the villages maybe have three people in the audience but they didn't talk to the people that they needed to talk to - the HR professionals and the Civil Service Commission," he said.

As a result of the ambiguity, several senators including the vice speaker suggested the Governor's Office withdraw Bill 507 and submit a new one. But Governor Calvo fired back that lawmakers should do their jobs, something he claims they haven't done in the past three budget cycles - including when they passed Vice Speaker Cruz's amendment in the last budget to increase survivor annuities by 20%, which Calvo says will cost GovGuam an additional $64 million annually.

Cruz said, "Don't leave it to me to make all the changes because you screwed up...but the way that this bill is written there is too many things that don't drive the intent of the Administration and what's in the bill, just don't jive.

Calvo said, "These are the same people who created three years of budgets and again with careless disregard to ethical practices made an amendment in a budget bill by the time the fiscal year was about to end to save face, and these are the same people who are looking at me with this smugness of self-righteousness, I just don't accept it."

The hearings meanwhile continue next week where will address the proposed cuts relative to the National Guard, the Government of Guam Retirement Fund, teachers and nurses.

Meanwhile, Cruz noted during last night's roundtable and today to firefighters that it was nearly five months ago when he suggested Governor Calvo use the savings from consolidating the government's contracts for telephones and internet connections. He further added that while he's not concerned at who gets the credit, he is concerned that it is still short by $1.7 million and doesn't want to see the savings to come from GFD.

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