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Roundtable held on GFD cuts

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Guam - It was a much shorter roundtable discussion but like Monday it was filled with emotions. On deck last night, firefighters who suited up to protect their pay. They are the first to respond to emergencies anywhere and at any time of the day or night, but firefighters filled the Guam Legislature responding to something much different.

"The concern is it's a targeted group," announced Fire Chief Joey San Nicolas. Led by San Nicolas, firefighters testified against the provisions contained in Governor Eddie Calvo's $70 million in spending cuts proposal directly related to GFD. "You're talking about the quality of life of important people," he said. "People who lay their lives on the line who sacrifice everyday so that you can rest easy at night yourself to know that when you need help you call 911, somebody will respond. And that's what it all comes down to."

The bill would have eliminated non-productive and incentive pay and reduced GFD overtime by 6 hours. Lieutenant John Santos said, "I don't know why it's only our overtime that they're looking at, there was a study done about DOC that there were several people overtime pay is higher than their base pay. And yet I don't see anybody cutting DOC. I don't see anybody cutting DOC and I don't want to cut them because I don't want to see the prisoners run out. But you got to be fair if you're gong to cut overtime lets do it across the board."

Despite the governor's announcement prior to last night's roundtable that he was withdrawing the cuts, firefighters like Captain Ed Mendiola felt compelled to attend - and even brought his children with him. "I have two kids there that I have to raise 365 days a year, they don't see me for birthdays, Christmas nothing. I'm Mr. Mom. You try to cut my pay, fine cut my pay. If I'm going to lose $1,000, $800, $500, fine. My God, everybody in the Government of Guam should lose the same amount I'm going to lose, let's make it all fair," he said.

The Calvo Administration decided to withdraw the cuts, as a results of an amendment Senator Mana Silva Taijeron will introduce that proposes to use savings from the consolidated telecommunications contract as an alternative. Even despite his announcement though lawmakers like Senator Rory Respicio continued criticizing the Administration, once again renewing the call for the governor to submit a new bill to clearly show his intentions.

Calvo, however, has said he wouldn't be introducing a new bill, saying senators need to do their jobs and amend it. In a press release last night Calvo said, "If the language is left in this bill, it is because the senators want to keep it there all of the democratic leadership have been criticizing the cut in the first place.  I would hope if they really believed this, and didn't want to hurt the firefighters, they would take this out.  If they don't, i guess their support runs out when their soundbyte is over."

Respicio said, "I'm not going to wait, I don't think we should wait for the governor to take action, so at this time I make a motion on behalf of every single member tonight to strike out Sections 12, 13 and 14 so all of you can have a good night's rest and get ready for your next shift. The motion was seconded by Speaker Judi Won Pat.

Chief San Nicolas said, relieved, "I'm happy that Senator Rory took that proactive step to strike it out as he was calling out the governor to do so. At the same time, this is something the governor has already committed to. And so basically both sides just had to effectuate the agreement or commitment." 

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