Guam – In a speech this morning at the Hyatt before the Guam Visitors Bureau “Living the Guam Brand” conference, Senator Tina Muna-Barnes criticised plans proposed by both the Governor and fellow Senator Ben Pangelinan to borrow money to pay tax refunds.
In his State of the Isaldn address, Governor Calvo proposed issuing a new bond to borrow funds to pay tax refunds.
In a March 18th letter to the Governor, Senator Ben Pangelinan countered with a plan to use re-direct funds from an exisiting bond authroization, rather than issue a new bond. Pangelinan proposed using proceeds from the Tourist Attraction Fund [TAF] bond that GEDA is still trying to float in order to pay the tax refunds.
However in her speech today, Senator Muna-Barnes, who Chairs the Legislature’s Tourist Committee, took both proposals to task.
“We cannot borrow our way to prosperity,” said Muna-Barnes, ” we cannot end our debt by handing our grandchildren a greater deficit.”
The Senator also vowed to “oppose any effort to raid the TAF for political expediency or short term gain.”
“Tax returns belong to the people,” she said, adding, “I believe our people understand the danger of using one loan to pay for another … the best way to shatter the cycle of poverty is to create jobs and the qualified workforce to fill those positions,” she said.
Read Senator Muna-Barnes Speech below:
The Guam Essence Got Culture
Living the Guam Brand
Senator Tina Rose Muna Barnes
February 7thth 2011
Thank you Rita, for that very warm welcome…Manana si yu’us
In preparation for my remarks this morning, I asked a young staffer in my office what she believed to be the “Guam essence?”
Like many of you, I expected to hear about our strong foundation of respect for the past, the faith we place in the wisdom of our elders, and the spirit of Inafa’maolek that has allowed even the homeless on Guam to give precious pennies to a boot drive for Japan relief.
Instead of these deeply held cultural values, I too was told a story.
This staffer said that a renowned brake dancer visited Guam a year or so ago. To her, this was a big deal because the dancer had seen India and Shanghai; Paris and Peru; England and Ecuador. To her this dancer had seen the world, and now he was here on our piece of God’s earth.
Months after the dancer departed, he was asked to post a youtube comment on Guam, in response he said, Guam is vacant of heritage and void of culture.
As I stand in this room surrounded by the fierce advocates of our heritage, and angry at the ignorance that story portrays, I know that he is wrong and that the essence of our island is alive and well.
Every person in this room understands the vital role tourism plays in our daily lives. The industry is responsible for 20,000 jobs, sixty percent of our economic base, and the lion’s share of our prosperity. But resting on our glories is the easy way forward and that is not the path laid out for us.
As our neighbors in Japan battle the affects of an ongoing disaster, and every day tests the measure of their resilience and resolve, we acknowledge that our industry must adapt and in so doing become better. Tourism is more than passenger arrival numbers or hotel occupancy rates; it is the manner in which we show ourselves to the world, the method by which we balance the demands of our ancient culture with a clear vision of Guam’s future.
As we face the demands of the Guam Buildup, a potentially massive short-tem migration and a region poised to compete for every tourist dollar. Our 3,000 year old culture must become the foundation for the “Guam Brand. It is in achieving this goal that I believe what we are doing today finds a home.
Unfortunately we cannot win our future if we are unwilling to face the challenges of the present.
Though Guam has seen a new cultural resurgence, our challenge is to make this new longing a INTEGRAL part of our daily lives. Littering is so common it is almost invisible, we struggle with basics like the cleanliness of our public restrooms, and though we spend millions of dollars bringing tourists to Guam, we refuse to spend the money necessary to keep Tumon well-lit and safe
We speak constantly of investing in our destination, but when a quick economic fix is needed, some argue that we should use the Tourism Attraction Funds to pay for tax returns.
We cannot borrow our way to prosperity; we cannot end our debt by handing our grandchildren a greater deficit. As the 31st Guam Legislature’s Chairwoman on Tourism, I will oppose any effort to raid the TAF for political expediency or short term gain.
Tax returns belong to the people and I know that we have borrowed your money for far too long but I believe our people understand the danger of using one loan to pay for another. I believe our people know that the best way to shatter the cycle of poverty is to create jobs and the qualified workforce to fill those positions.
Ayn Rand once wrote that “A culture is made — or destroyed — by its articulate voices. Though many of you have been the voices of our culture for a long time, I know everyone here could use some reinforcements. In the next couple of weeks I will be introducing legislation to create the “Cultural Incentive Corps.”
The CIC’s mission will be to develop the cultural awareness, consistency, and capacity needed to help it participants to LIVE the Guam brand.
Those who complete the Cultural Incentive Program and take their skill to our tourism industry will receive a tax rebate on the dollars they earn and the business that hires them will receive an offset against their existing tax liability. By partnering with the University of Guam’s Professional Development Program, the CIC will train those on the frontline of our tourism industry to be qualified cultural professionals.
Culture makes economic sense, and it is my hope that each of you will help make the Cultural Incentive Corps a reality. The CIC is just one way to strengthen the bonds between industry and culture, and in recognition of that fact and the talent in this room, I would like to make one last commitment to each of you.
I believe leadership begins with listening. My office will always be open to you, your ideas, your concerns, and your criticisms. As innovative ideas work their way around this conference, know that those ideas will always receive a fair hearing from me. After all, this is the essence of Guam, the belief that we are all family; the knowledge that as long as we work together, we will survive any adversity or meet any challenge.
If I could speak to that brake dancer today, I’d say Guam’s culture is not found in buildings made of brick and stone, it is in the hearts of our people.
The recognition that we all share the same air and walk on the same land; the measure of respect we pay to everyone because all people are deserving of dignity.
We do face our difficulties but in the words of Dr, Underwood, nothing is wrong with Guam that cannot be fixed by all that is right with Guam.
Un dangkolo’ na Si’ Yu’us Ma’ase,