Speaker seeks middle ground to lessen business costs

Vice Speaker Tina Barnes

Speaker Tina Muna Barnes has responded to a letter from Guam Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Christine Baleto who asked for legislation to help lower the business sector’s increasing costs.

Included in the letter was a request for a special session and special legislation that would temporarily postpone the implementation of the minimum wage due to the lost revenues suffered by island businesses from the coronavirus outbreak.

Responding to the letter, the Speaker said she is working on creating a middle ground, including making Bill 71-35, which would lessen the costs of island businesses, part of the next session’s agenda

According to the Chamber, distributors can no longer absorb the costs associated with Public Law 33-106 which prescribes new rules in the transport of goods.

The Chamber is pushing for Bill 71-35, which would ensure that the cost of everyday goods is not increased because of the additional shipping and transport costs caused by Public Law 33-106.

In her response to the Chamber, the Speaker said she is working closely with the oversight committee so that they can work expediently to move Bill-71-35 to the session floor.

“That being said, given that this bill seeks to protect the bottom-line and profit margins of certain businesses, I hope that especially during times like these, our business community steps up and shares these savings with their customers — the other businesses on Guam and ultimately our retail consumers,” the Speaker said.

She added: “I am willing to work with you for the sake of Team Guam. I will do my best in facilitating the advancement of Bill 71-35 but that being said, I won’t protect your bottom line, at the cost of the working man/woman. I am now turning to our business community, appealing to your commitment of being stewards of our community, and the sense of inafa’maolek that is instilled in everyone who calls Guam home, to step up and take care of their employees as we weather this storm together. I continue to pray for the health and safety of those who are affected by COVID-19 and hope for a swift rebound of our visitor industry.”

The Speaker also said that over the last few weeks, she has been in discussions with government stakeholders on the steps that can be taken to protect the island from the novel coronavirus.