Guam governor keeps legislators busy but doesn't get his way
After days and many hours of debate and discussion, Guam legislators voted 10-4 against Governor Eddie Baza Calvo's favored budget crisis fix, Bill 245-34, which would have imposed a temporary 50 percent increase in the Business Privilege Tax.
But that was hardly the end of the work day for the lawmakers. Governor Calvo immediately called a special session for 7 p.m., but that was only the start of a very long evening, which saw three governor-imposed if very brief sessions.
“There’s still time to avert this crisis. I am ready to work late tonight if it means that we maintain government stability. If employees aren’t sleeping soundly because they’re worried about their finances, I don’t see how we can sleep,” Governor Calvo said, according to one of many press releases put out by Adelup. “I don’t want to see a 32-hour workweek or a curtailed [sic] government services,” said the governor, who himself threatened the work week curtailment.
The governor instead wanted the legislature to take up a proposal to impose a sales tax sponsored by Sen. Fernando Esteves. According the Adelup release:
"This bill is yet ANOTHER iteration of a compromise. It takes Sen. Joe Agustin’s bill on the sales tax and adds amendments from Sen. Tom Ada, Vice Speaker Terlaje and Sen. James Espaldon, such as lock-boxing the expanded stream for the Guam Memorial Hospital, and reiterating cost-cutting measures. Private sector business leaders also have supported a proposed sales tax increase."
Speaker B.J. Cruz was also issuing press statements. “Three times I offered Governor Calvo the chance to raise revenues and save GovGuam employees from the threat of furloughs. The Governor went all in and now too many of our neighbors will lose because we couldn’t work together.”
The Esteves measure was scheduled for a public hearing next week over the objections of Senator Tommy Morrison, who wanted it moved up as an emergency matter, but was overruled by Speaker Cruz.
"The two bills that are being being referred to committee and having a public hearing are to impose a two percent sales tax, and everybody in this community deserves and has the right to appear before the legislature. And the committee that's hearing these bills to speak specifically to this two percent tax on sales. And so it is the ruling of the chair that the two bills, 248 and 249 will be referred to the committee on taxation and finance and there'll be no further debate. We'll have the hearing on the 8th at 9 a.m. as scheduled by the chairman."