Buenas yan Hafa Adai!

My dear people of Guam, the legislature will begin budget hearings on June 25, and I encourage each one of you to tune in to the legislative channel on MCV Channel 13, or GuD TV Channel 21 to weigh in on your government's financial report card.

Budget hearings are important because it affects all of us, whether it's putting food on the table or paying a home mortgage so that your family has a roof over their head.

You probably didn't think it works that way, but it does; every time you part with your hard earned money, you're seeing your tax dollars at work, so how this government manages your money should be a major concern to you.

This legislature will work hard and scrutinize this budget to make sure your tax dollars are spent wisely. 

Governor Calvo submitted a $772.5 million appropriations budget. This means he anticipates this is how much it's going to cost to run our government for fiscal year 2013.

Committee Finance Chair Senator Ben Pangelinan is still off island so I will be chairing the budget hearings. And because this money belongs to you, I assure you that we will thoroughly review it, because as in every budget hearing, we try to find every single dollar that may be available.

Each budget cycle is a challenge, and there are 15 senators who contribute to the discussion and debate during these hearings. This year's budget is currently under review by the Office of Finance and Budget.

I also want to assure you that the Legislature is committed to working with the executive branch to negotiate a budget. I would much rather negotiate a budget that we can agree on and get bipartisan support.

One way or the other, we'll get a budget passed because no one wants to close the government--that's a useless exercise. 

On another matter, but just as equally important, the governor is working to identify $43 million in government cuts which will result in layoffs of government employees.

My concern, as well as that of my colleagues, is that the layoffs will have an immediate effect on families and will further intensify our growing number of families who are living at or below the poverty level, as well as adding to our unemployment rate which is a record high at 13.2 percent. We will need to deal with these serous outcomes when the time comes.

I've spoken to many of you and you've all told me the same thing: now more than ever, it's tough living on Guam and trying to make ends meet.

This legislature knows what's at stake. After the hearings, the real work begins when we go into legislative session. At that time, I hope that the executive branch will be receptive to compromise and that collectively, we will agree on a budget and not shut out each other's ideas. What's important is working together and getting things done.

Saina Ma'ase