- Pacific Island Times Staff
Pot hole bipartisanship: Guam legislators vote higher gas tax to fix roads
Senator Tommy Morrison
Maybe it's more a question of facing reality. Roads don't get fixed and water and sewer systems don't get improved without more funds. And ultimately, those who benefit must expect to pay.
The political figures required to bring this about know very well that voters aren't likely to reward them for facing up to this.
But a majority of senators in the 34th Guam Legislature have just supported a 4-cent increase to the Liquid Fuel Tax rates intended to fix the roads..
Senators William Castro, James Espaldon, Fernando Esteves, Louise Muna, Dennis Rodriguez, Joe San Agustin and Vice-Speaker Therese Terlaje voted in favor of Senator Tommy Morrison’s Bill 122 which adjusts the Liquid Fuel Tax rates for the specific purpose of funding additional secondary road repairs under the Guam Village Streets Master Plan. Developed in 2009, the master plan includes nearly $1 billion worth of unfunded road repair projects.
Senator Morrison said this followed a decision by the Public Utilities Commission to increase water rates by an average of up to $2 per month in order to help pay off a bond used to improve the island’s water and wastewater systems.
Guam’s power and water agencies and both ports of entry have all acknowledged Guam’s growth over the years, according to a news release from Senator Morrison's office. Moreover, they’ve developed master plans and have been successful or are in the process of adjusting applicable rates and fees via the Public Utilities Commission – in order to fund the implementation of their immediate and long-term capital improvement project needs. GWA’s latest rate increase is the 14th adjustment since 2004. With respect to funding for road improvements, the Liquid Fuel Tax rates have been adjusted only twice in the past 38 years through P.L. 15-74 in 1979 and P.L. 17-4 in 1983 during Governor Ricky Bordallo and Governor Paul Calvo’s terms, respectively, the release said.
“Like GWA and GPA, and with non-highway/non-transportation funding issues aside, the legislature has finally acknowledged that there aren’t enough resources in the highway fund available to address the increasing demands placed on our village streets,” said Senator Morrison. “The people of Guam are not only waiting for more road repairs to be funded, they’re willing to pay a little more at the pump to make this happen. In a poll conducted by one of our local news organizations in July of this year, 71 percent of those surveyed supported increasing the Liquid Fuel Tax rates to improve village roads. Not a single testimony submitted to the legislature regarding Bill 122 objected to the proposed increases.”
With the passage of Bill 122, eight senators of the 34th Guam Legislature responded to the needs of the Department of Public Works, which has consistently requested additional resources from the legislature to purchase asphalt and other construction materials. The availability of additional materials will complement the use of in-house personnel and recently acquired heavy equipment.
“I thank my colleagues who supported Bill 122 for their continued efforts in prioritizing safer roadways over politics. I look forward to working with each of them in the months ahead on legislation aimed at gradually transitioning various non-highway/non-transportation obligations out of the Guam Highway Fund – so that more resources will be made available specifically for road repairs. We all have an obligation to protect the highway fund from being used (again) for obligations unrelated to highways and transportation,” said Senator Morrison.
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