Governor’s Weekly Address: “Supplemental Budget Accomplishes What We Set Out to Do”

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Guam -Governor Eddie Calvo says the supplemental budget passed Friday by the legislature “has some shortfalls … but in all, the bill accomplishes what we set out to do.”

In his weekly radio address, the Governor says he has some concerns “with a couple of sections,” but his “fiscal team believes this is manageable.”

The Governor also thanked Budget Committee Chair Senator Ben Pangleinan and his staff for doing “a good job presenting the revenue sources, the payroll shortfalls and the need to fund them.”

However, both Senator Pangelinan and Speaker Won Pat have accused the Governor of exaggerating the budget shortfall. During Friday’s discussion, Pangelinan said,  by his calculations, there was no danger of any agency running out of funds until the end of August or early September. And Speaker Won Pat went as far as saying “there is already more than enough appropriations to cover payroll for all agencies through Fiscal Year 2011.”

Both Pangelinan and Won Pat were also critical of the Governor’s appeal to GovGuam employees last Friday to contact lawmakers and urge them to pass the Supplemental Budget.

However, the Governor in his weekly address thanks GovGuam employees for doing just that saying: “Many of you were never told that your agency’s budget was short on payroll  … you called and emailed Senators to express your opinion … at the end of the day, you are the ones who convinced Senators that the right thing to do was to pass the budget.”

The Supplemental Budget that was passed was Senator Pangelinan’s substitute Bill 184 which is significantly different than the version originally proposed by the Governor.

READ the Governor’s Address below or Click on the link to HEAR it:

06-06-11 weekly address_1-2.mp3

Governor Eddie Calvo

Concentrating on What Really Matters
By Eddie Baza Calvo
My fellow Guamanians,
Buried under the budget debate last week was a significant symposium on affordable housing. Local and federal partners came together to find solutions so that you can afford a home. This five-year plan is one of the ways our administration is proposing to make life better for you, and to lift people out of poverty.

I was listening the other day to a Malafunkshun song by Chris Barnett. You’ve heard it. It’s called, ‘This island’s too expensive for me.’ While Chris has a talented way of making us laugh, he sheds a lot of light on some basic truth.

You understand the reality, just as Chris Barnett portrays it to be. You either see poverty, you know someone going through hardship, or you’re suffering yourself. Every day that goes by, another Guamanian feels the pinch of an island home moving further from the paradise of abundance we once knew. The price of gas, fuel and electricity keeps going up. The surcharges at the Port are making everything we import so expensive – and that’s almost everything.

But rising prices isn’t the only problem. Incomes aren’t growing. People can’t get a job. They can’t even get their tax refunds. People lower their pride to come to my office and beg for anything they can: their tax refund, their COLA, a job. They need it to pay their mortgage or their rent. They need it to fly home a loved one who died off island. They need it to send a loved one off island for surgery. They need it for medicine, or to buy food because their food stamps aren’t enough. There was an elderly woman who just wanted her refund to pay her power bill because she needs electricity to run her oxygen machine at home.

We invest a lot of money into public education, but what does that mean to a child who can’t study at home or school because he never has enough to eat? Or how does healthcare matter to families who can only afford a cheaper, unhealthy lifestyle? We put a lot of priority on law enforcement, but there are children just living on the fringes… and the odds are, they will not be able to focus in school, they will not afford college, their needs will go unnoticed, and they will turn to a life of crime. And then, what happens to their children?

We are deep into a cycle of poverty… deep enough that Guamanians honestly feel their island is too expensive for them. For many people, Guam and its promise of abundance are drifting further from their reality. The Guamanian Dream is some unattainable ambition. These are the REAL issues we should all be focused on, not the petty political swipes that surround a budget. Outside of Adelup… Outside the Legislature… Outside the air conditioned offices and the budgets we debate over… are the people whose lives our decisions affect.

I want to thank senators for swiftly considering my supplemental budget proposal. Senator Pangelinan and his staff, in particular, did a good job presenting the revenue sources, the payroll shortfalls and the need to fund them. The bill the Legislature passed does have some shortfalls, but my fiscal team believes this is manageable. I have concerns with a couple of sections, but in all, the bill accomplishes what we set out to do. I just wish it could have been accomplished with a little less unnecessary political rhetoric, and a lot more attention to the more serious matter of what and who our actions affect in the budget.

Why does the budget matter? Because it’s your money we’re budgeting. It’s the services you count on that we’re budgeting for. The government should inform you where your money is going and how it’s being put to best use. It also matters because it really affects people’s lives. I’m talking about 12,000 teachers, nurses, public safety officers and other professionals who work for you in public service. I’m talking about them and the rest of the 23,000 dependents and retirees who rely on health insurance. And the tens of thousands in MIP, Medicaid and other public assistance. There’s 32,000 public school students, thousands of hospital patients annually, 44,000 people owed tax refunds, and the list goes on. Behind all those numbers and all that political rhetoric are the faces of these people.

I want to personally thank all the GovGuam employees. Many of you were never told that your agency’s budget was short on payroll. You were never told how bad the situation was as soon as the current budget was passed in August last year. When you opened your email on Friday and saw the facts of what could happen without good legislative action, you became concerned. You started talking to each other. You called and emailed senators to express your opinion. I’m almost certain that, at the end of the day, you are the ones who convinced senators that the right thing to do was to pass the budget.

Now that this debate is over, we must immediately turn our attention to the biennial budget proposal, which includes a solution to pay your tax refunds in full by Christmas. I look forward to the discussion on this. I know senators want to pay your tax refunds just as much as I do.

Thank you, and God bless.