The past seven years: territorial address


(Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo, who is serving his last year in Adelup, delivered his final State of the Territory address before members of the 34th Guam Legislature at the Congress Building in Hagatna on Feb. 13, 2018. Following is the full transcript of his address released by the Office of the Governor.)

Hafa Adai, good evening, my friends, my family, my fellow Guamanians, benedision ginen guahu yan dankolo na si Yu’us ma’ase ni finatton miyu pago.

Lt. Governor Tenorio, Speaker Cruz, Chief Justice Maraman, military leadership, and distinguished members of the 34th Guam Legislature, my Cabinet, my family, and my dear people of Guam:

We, here today, are blessed with a legacy of patience, perseverance and strength. The people of Guam have struggled through colonization that threatened our very existence and then fought for our very lives in the anguish of World War II. Our manamko, the greatest generation, did more than survive war; they rebuilt this island to be a shining example of what could be. Their sheer determination and will to live and thrive are a reminder that we are as strong as the latte. Though we are a small island in the Pacific – no matter what is thrown in our direction — we will persevere. We are a resilient and exceptional people. History has shown this.

AT THE BEGINNING

About seven years ago, Ray and I stood before you — ready to do our part. We have worked to forge a path that would lead our community to its greatest heights, and help our people achieve their version of the Guamanian Dream.

Tonight, I stand before you to report that the state of our island is strong, however, in the next few days we face decisions that will determine whether we continue the great progress already established or if we allow outside forces to erode the accomplishments we have built. As we consider the precipice upon which we stand, we must look at where we started, the progress we’ve made, the challenges we’ve overcome, and the new hurdles that lay before us today.

In fiscal year 2011, we walked into a Government of Guam that had a deficit of tax refunds and vendor payables nearing $400 million. The government’s financial position hindered its ability to provide an adequate level of services to Guamanians.

  • In 2011, our community of 160,000 had one, sometimes two, working ambulances – a state of non-readiness that threatened the lives of our families.

  • We didn’t have enough police vehicles to patrol our streets.

  • Your police officers were paid a little over minimum wage. Promised salary adjustments weren’t fulfilled. As a result, GPD personnel were leaving the Guam Police Department.

  • For decades, the people of Guam had to beg for their tax refunds or wait for years. By the time this administration was in Adelup in 2011, GovGuam owed you nearly $270 million, going back five even six years.

  • Unpaid COLA to retirees amounted to $20 million

  • Our working poor, for years, were denied Earned Income Tax Credit, which was meant to put a few extra dollars in the pockets of those of our people who need it most.

  • The Department of Corrections had been under a permanent court injunction for about 20 years.

  • We were already a few years into federal receivership at the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, as well as the Guam Solid Waste Authority.

  • High schools like George Washington High, John F. Kennedy and Okkodo High were dangerously overcrowded … and Untalan Middle School had sewage seeping out from the girls and boys’ restrooms.

  • We had 1,745 homeless people on Guam.

  • Unemployment was over 13%

THE WORK

About 84 months later, by working together, we were able to make progress.

As an administration, we started with opening the ranks to a diverse group of citizens. We filled our administration with individuals who had gained wisdom and institutional knowledge through public service over the years, we welcomed younger generations and people from different backgrounds with new ideas.

It didn’t matter on which side of the political divide they lived, democrat or republican, whether they were a man or a woman, or from what island or continent their ancestors came. What mattered was their integrity, and their desire to serve and make a difference in the lives of our people.

This diverse group of public servants were catalysts for new ideas that birthed opportunities and took advantage of the crossroad at which we found ourselves.

Several of our agencies and programs had been placed under federal oversight. We were at a point, where either we folded as a government and a people, to the will of Washington DC — only to serve their federal consent decrees – or we determined our own path forward, living up to the legacy of ingenuity and strength that our ancestors left to us. Ray and I, with the help of Guamanians across the island, chose the latter.

We reinvented our government with the understanding that it should be an instrument to protect and promote the lives of the people of the island of Guam … an instrument to help their search for the Guamanian Dream.

Our next steps forward were focused on the premise that this government of Guam was entrusted with the responsibility to provide our people with a hand up — not a handout — so that they would have the tools they need to solve their own problems.

I knew that we needed to correct a few things. Our government shouldn’t owe the people. We set forth a goal to repay tax refunds, and promised salary adjustments to our safety officers and outstanding merit bonuses to GovGuam employees who had been waiting for decades.

In early 2011, we sent a bill to the Legislature and by the end of the year paid nearly $270 million in tax refunds owed for returns filed as far back as 2006.

The lawsuit always referred to as being responsible for paying tax refunds was actually filed after the fact. The attorneys had to amend their lawsuit because we had started paying tax refunds while they were still filing legal briefs. Also, the court came down with their determination in 2013, as we were paying out a third year of tax refunds. The results of that lawsuit were 1) lawyers pocketed a few million dollars, which could have gone towards paying more tax refunds; and 2) the court took away our ability to prioritize refunds for people facing hardships.

  • To date, we have put more than $1.3 billion in tax refunds into your pockets. And we’re returning your money to you within months because your administration exercises smart financial management. We are paying out more tax refunds in history, we’re also doing it at a savings in interest. Additionally, we’ve paid out more EITC than any other administration, at about $350 million in the last seven years.

  • Today we have 13 working ambulances.

  • GPD has a whole fleet of vehicles and within the next two months they will have enough for a second fleet.

  • We’ve fulfilled the promise of increased compensation to your police officers and all are now earning competitive salaries.

  • Your Lt. Governor worked alongside the Attorney General and the Speaker … and fixed the problems at DOC, thereby lifting the injunction and saving us from the threat of another costly federal receivership.

  • By 2013 the injunction on Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center was lifted and management of the Center was returned to the local government. By July of 2017, they received a three-year accreditation, proving that our island is capable of meeting nationally recognized service standards.

  • We’ve reduced the number of homeless people by half

  • Despite some resistance, the administration was able to renovate Untalan Middle School and open Tiyan High School — providing a healthier and safer learning environment for more than 3,000 students and 100 school teachers and staff.

  • Minimum wage has increased 14 percent - from $7.25 to $8.25

  • And despite the lack of a stable funding source, we still managed to receive accreditation, twice, for the Guam Memorial Hospital since the administration took office.

Until the last day of this administration, there will be more removals so long as non-U.S. citizens commit crimes. And they will all be leavi