Guam – Speaker Judi Won Pat is declaring her opposition to the layoff of any GovGuam employees, unless “all possible alternatives” are explored first.
In her Weekly Address, the Speaker says that she “will not yield in my objection to any initiative that further burdens the People of Guam without debate, exploring all possible alternatives, and a sound justification.”
Won Pat raises the point that some federal mandates require certain staffing levels within various GovGuam agencies and she questions whether agencies like Rev & Tax really should have staff level cuts when they need additional staff to collect the funds that GovGuam is so short of.
Instead of layoffs, the Speaker suggests raising money. “I offer another approach to addressing this issue: identify ways to generate the necessary revenue” by seeking more federal funds or closing the gaps in the island’s tax collection system.
The Speaker concludes that “to proceed with the issuance of layoff notices and eventual termination of hardworking GovGuam employees without a published plan and exhausting all other measures is not only irresponsible, it is immoral.”
READ the Speaker’s Weekly Address below or click on the link to HEAR it:
My Dear People of Guam,
Our island, like the rest of the contiguous United States and our neighbors in Asia, is experiencing extreme financial challenges as a result of declining markets. This economic reality is forcing our government and all affected industries to make hard decisions. Whatever is decided, I assure you that I will not endorse or otherwise approve any initiative that comes before this legislature that is not based on data, a sound rationale, and an anticipated set of predicted outcomes.
In this day and age of technology and a growing educated population, we owe it to ourselves to demand nothing less. Any decision that affects government operations and your ability to earn a living for your household must be debated, based on fact, and methodically thought out, as opposed to being based on anecdotal references to one’s belief, personal experience, or surmising about ‘how it used to be.’
I was recently polled on whether I supported a 10% cut across the board, the layoff of government employees, or the increase of taxes. My response is simply: “No. I will not yield in my objection to any initiative that further burdens the People of Guam without debate, exploring all possible alternatives, and a sound justification.”
The argument put out there by the administration is that “government is too large.” Really? On what set of criteria or benchmarks do you base such statements? An increase in the number of personnel over a period of time does not mean we’ve grown beyond what is necessary. As a matter of fact, the courts have opined and even stipulated that certain positions in our government must be filled in order to meet federal mandates, such is the case with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. In several other cases involving the need to meet industry standards for purposes of accreditation, our government was further required to properly staff and supply the operations of respective agencies.
Admittedly, I am neither an economist nor am I a human resource expert to tell you what the appropriate ratio of clerks or accountants is for any given municipality our size. But what I can speak to are those issues that are brought up on the floor of the legislature on a regular basis.
Let me share a few of these with you in order to try and get a better understanding of our so-called “too large a government” …to the point that layoffs are necessary.
The Department of Revenue and Taxation is pleading for additional personnel in order to properly assess, audit, and pursue unpaid taxes.
Is this the same government that is too large?
What about the case of another government agency whose maintenance division employs less than a dozen A/C-refrigeration mechanics to service well over 2,000 A/C units.
Now I ask you again, is this the same government that is too large?
My point: do not simply tell me government is too large and that you want to terminate personnel without telling me where it’s too large, why it’s too large, and how you plan to cut personnel without compromising the level of service.
You see, I and probably every other member of the Guam Legislature will rise in support of a more efficient and productive government. But it is my position that the reduction of our government’s workforce does not address the issue of our government’s inability to generate enough revenue to sustain the current level of service.
Let me be clear in my position: I say “NO” to the termination of classified government personnel without first exhausting all other options and “YES” to the streamlining of government through the consolidation of agencies, divisions, and offices in order that we reduce the number of unclassified agency directors, deputy directors, specials assistants, and assistants to the assistants.
My Dear People of Guam, the issue at hand is that there isn’t enough money coming into our coffers to sustain the current level of government operations. I offer another approach to addressing this issue: identify ways to generate the necessary revenue.
Senator Tony Ada was credited with recommending that the administration step up efforts to apply for federal grants. This is an excellent recommendation because it looks to a solution with a positive outcome as opposed to accepting the status quo regarding our fiscal affairs.
If you must make the tough decisions, do not place it upon the backs of the working class. Instead, equally displace such pressures by reexamining our tax system and closing those gaps for the under-taxed, those not taxed at all, or those who under-report or continue to fail to report on taxes owed so that they pay their fair share of the cost to maintain a safe and healthy community.
In closing, it is not in our community’s best interest to add to the ranks of the unemployed. As the Speaker of a third and equal branch of government I am calling upon the Governor of Guam to publish the administration’s plan that clearly articulates the state of our economy, potential areas for savings and greater efficiency as a result of leveraged technologies and/or the reengineering of the delivery of government services. Such a plan should also discuss ways in which this government may generate the necessary revenue to sustain the level of operations best fit to service our current population. Report out the results of the Fiscal Responsibility and Tax Refund Commission that you created in order that our community may examine the options put forth before you begin to layoff personnel.
To proceed with the issuance of layoff notices and eventual termination of hardworking govGuam employees without a published plan and exhausting all other measures is not only irresponsible, it is immoral.