Governor responds to GOP on state of GovGuam finances

Despite the success of the U.S. territories' response to COVID-19, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said they have been included in a High-Level Risk list rather than used as examples for states to follow. (PNC file photo)

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero has responded to the Republican Party of Guam’s statement criticizing the state of the government of Guam’s finances.

In a statement last week, the Guam GOP said the governor needs “to end the façade that the financial state of our government is great.”

“The truth of the matter is that it will take our tourism industry at least a year or two before our island experiences reasonable arrival numbers. This means our economy is in trouble and she needs to stop playing politics and start taking action,” the Republican Party said.

But in a recent interview with NewsTalk K57’s Patti Arroyo, the governor said she has been taking action and working hard to make sure GovGuam finances are in order.

“I am very much in tune with what my expenses are as governor. I am very much knowledgeable about where our revenue sources are coming from. I’m very much knowledgeable about our collections and our collections are really good. We are seeing an increase in collections in comparison to the previous administration,” Leon Guerrero said.

She stressed that Adelup is living within its means and that furloughing people is not exactly good fiscal policy.

“In any economy, in any government, in any organization, the goal is to keep people employed. Why? Because it’s the people who go out there and are the consumer spenders. They’re the ones who vitalize our economy. So if I can keep our people employed as much and as long as I can, I will do that,” the governor said.

She added that she is only hiring people who are specifically needed to provide protection for the people of Guam.

“I’m hiring nurses and people that provide social services. I’m not giving illegal pay raises and I’m not giving any pay raises. I’m not misusing or misspending any of our hard earned tax dollars. I know what it’s like to be financially responsible,” Leon Guerrero said.

The governor did acknowledge that it’s going to take a while for the economy to come back. In the meantime, the governor said “the bridge” is going to be military spending and government spending.

Rubber stamp majority

Aside from criticizing the governor, the Republican Party of Guam also castigated the majority Democratic senators in the 35th Guam Legislature.

“What is bothersome is that the majority in the Guam Legislature is saying absolutely nothing regarding government spending. Some of these Senators were members of the 33rd and 34th Guam Legislature where they threw proposals on the table to eliminate deputy directors, end executive security, establish hiring freezes, and place a bunch of moratoriums on a Republican governor. Today these Democrat senators are a rubber stamp majority that seems afraid to question a Democrat governor and her request for a billion dollar budget,” the Republican Party of Guam charged.

Other than a few senators, the GOP said the majority are quiet when it comes to the fiscal state of the island and are not proposing measures to streamline operations, reduce costs, or identify revenue enhancement opportunities.

“As the Governor continues to hire more employees during this pandemic, the majority in the legislature is more focused on passing out commendation resolutions. While the Chamber of Commerce is working towards diversifying our economy through new industries, the leadership of the Guam Legislature is taking their cue from Adelup in keeping taxes high and not allowing our island to be attractive for outside investments,” the Republican Party said.

The GOP added: “The Republican Party of Guam has a simple statement for both the Guam Legislature and Adelup: Our people are tired of the government’s overspending of the people’s tax dollars and a lack of prioritizing economic recovery. For the sake of our community, we hope they listen.”

‘A vote for Republicans is a vote for furloughs’

To which Carlo Branch, the governor’s policy director, responded: “Eddie Calvo’s Republican Party took five paragraphs to say what it could have said in a single sentence: ‘A vote for his Republicans is a vote for furloughs and layoffs.’ Eight years of Calvo-Republican leadership at Adelup saw our long term debt balloon, child support funds stolen, and federally protected E911 funds raided to pay for government mismanagement and illegal retroactive pay raises. Now the same Party that exploded our debt, grew our deficit, and left us without a basic safety net for the unemployed, says it deserves another turn behind the wheel — problem is we should never forget all the time they’ve spent driving us off the cliff.”