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Republican candidates offended by Respicio's comments

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Political infomercial or taxpayers expressing their thoughts on a bill they support? While some have criticized the testimony provided during last night's Big Bucks for Buses Bill, calling it "a political play", Republican senatorial candidates defend their actions and are calling one lawmaker's actions unprofessional and disrespectful.

"It is what it is," stated Senator Rory Respicio, noting that he doesn't see anything wrong with what he said at Wednesday night's public hearing on the bill. Last night he announced, "I have seven people that have signed up to testify, four of which are senatorial candidates, so let me dispose of the infomercial at this time. I'd like to invite Mr. Tommy Morrison, Mike Limtiaco, Mr. [Antonio] Aquiningoc and Brant McCreadie at this time - you'll be the first panel."

The four candidates presented their testimony in support of the measure that seeks to reduce the Guam Legislature's budget by a million dollars for the next four years and transfer that savings to the Department of Public Works for the repair and maintenance of school buses.  But they've taken offense to Respicio's remarks that they were there for an infomercial.

Limtiaco said, "I thought it was not only disrespectful, it was unprofessional," with McCreadie adding, "I've watched it many times on TV. I've watched the total disrespect of some of our senators to people in the public who come in their session hall or Public Hearing Room; and gosh, last night I was a part of it and I couldn't believe it."

Senator Respicio sees things differently and maintains he was actually giving the senatorial candidates a compliment adding their testimony will be included in the committee report. "I thought I was showing them respect and courtesy in having them go first," he defended. Asked if he would have said the same if it was a Democrat senatorial candidate who came in and testified, he replied, "Absolutely. But you wouldn't see Democrats do what Republicans did last night."

Candidates Limtiaco and McCreadie believe the senator's remarks were offensive, with the former saying, "If these public hearings cannot be listened to in an unbiased way and not be pre-empted by a comment like that, what good is our process? And for someone who chairs the committee to have so little respect for the process and the procedure, I thought it's unfortunate and as a constituent he definitely doesn't deserve me vote."

McCreadie stated, "I just wanted an apology, but I still believe Senator Respicio owes the public and Mr. Aquiningoc for the way he conducted himself and the way he treated us.:

So what exactly did the GOP candidates say and was it really an infomercial? Their testimony said, in part:

Brant McCreadie: What it does is it puts your own money where your mouth is.

Tommy Morrison: I feel it's incumbent upon us as leaders to lead by example and share in the burden.

Antonio Aquiningoc: The buses are so old I believe they need maintained and they're in dire need of it. Otherwise they wouldn't be broken down they need to be replaced, and I would like to see my kids ride on buses that are safe and are operational not halfway, thank you.

Mike Limtiaco: I believe that it sets a right example by asking all the agencies and other employees in government to look to where they can save and look to where we can cut and I believe that it should start with our leaders. 

Respicio contends the candidates showing up to testify in support of the bill was purely political, something he claims he tried not to be during the hearing. "I could have embarrassed those senatorial candidates - Republican senatorial candidates - testifying, asking them if they even read the bill because if they read the bill and talked about the great sense of urgency then they would've questioned if this is really urgent and important then why does the author of the bill want it to commence in Fiscal Year 2016?" he said.

The bill's author, Senator Chris Duenas, suggests his Democrat colleague should be the one to read the bill because it doesn't commence in 2016 as he suggests. "Upon passage and with the governor's signature, it immediately caps the legislative budget at $6 million," he expressed. "That leaves the remaining money through 2016 to be set aside for the purpose of Public Works, very clearly written."

Respicio believes all of the calls for an apology and the focus on his actions last night are part of a larger political ploy to specifically single him out. "In judging what the Republicans are doing, I felt back then, as I do now, that I'm going to be the number one target by this administration because I'm standing in the way of someone's agenda, someone's special interest group," he said.

Governor's communications director Troy Torres reacts to those claims, telling KUAM News, "Respicio has stood in the way of paying tax refunds and getting the military buildup here to create more jobs and higher wages. He has absolutely stood in the way of our agenda to pay the people what they are owed and make their lives better."

As for Senator Duenas, he's just hoping his Big Bucks for Buses Bill will actually have a fighting chance if it even makes the session agenda before the end of the 31st Guam Legislature, noting, "After last night, I've got to say my hopes are dashed."

As for the remaining three that testified, all said they were in support of the Big Bucks for Buses Bill. Joseph Perez Jr. stated, "We're talking about safety of our children, you know. If they get into an accident because if the bus breaks down, let's say for example because of brake problems who is liable the Government of Guam. We're talking about safety of our children so please take that into consideration senators "

Travis Mesa noted, "If education is really such a priority to the kids not all of them are fortunate to get a ride to school or I kindly ask that you support it, it is an election year so really think about it.  Guys, if you guys support education the solution this should have been solved a long time ago." And Jesse Fejeran testified, "I want our children to get what they deserve because they deserve the respect from us, as we should be respecting them as parents as leaders or whatever may be. They deserve threes things because they are the next millennium, and I hope each and everyone will open your mind if you choose not to pass it I hope you have a plan."

The community has ten days to submit testimony on Bill 517 to Senator Respicio's office.

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