It began, most notably in November, as the Calvo administration stationed a sign-plastered, somewhat beat-up hearse on the street between the Guam Congress Building and the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatna.
It wasn’t subtle or tasteful, in the opinion of some, but as the posters made clear, it was a fairly transparent lobbying ploy, demanding that the Legislature hold a public hearing on the governor’s proposed borrowing and tax increases.
Lobbying in somewhat the same vein proceeded in the weeks to come, with Governor Calvo invoking his powers under the Organic Act to call the lawmakers into nearly continuous sessions to consider his proposed tax increase proposals in light of what he contended was a $67 million budget shortfall in fiscal year 2018 alone, based on projections of the impact of President Trump’s loudly promoted federal tax cut.
Lawmakers showed some skepticism about both the numbers and proposed remedies.
Guam Memorial Hospital’s perilous fiscal state has been a fact of Guam’s life for decades, yet the Legislature was presented as the enemy of the people for not immediately acting to fix the problem with the various remedies proposed by the governor.
Much the same thing occurred with the Department of Corrections, where the mysterious death of an inmate sparked an otherwise routine oversight hearing to life as Director Alberto Lamorena delivered a rant to committee chair Senator Telena Nelson blaming her and the Legislature for DOC’s longstanding fiscal problems. Lamorena has since demanded Nelson’s resignation as oversight chair for disrespecting the agency and not helping to fix its problems.
Meanwhile, Governor Calvo was trying out some other approaches to the crisis, including imposing a 32-hour work week furlough of government employees across the board, which was immediately challenged by another elected official in a press release.
“Guam Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson says that she has advised Governor Eddie Baza Calvo that he can't order a furlough of government workers in response to the alleged government fiscal crisis without following established procedures for this action. And she says Calvo is taking her advice.
“In fact, a financial emergency is one of the primary reason for initiating furlough procedures, not a reason to avoid them,” Barrett-Anderson said.
Pressure was also applied in early March with the abrupt announcement that fire stations in Piti and Astumbo, Dededo would be closed for a savings in overtime costs pegged at $2.6 million by fire officials and further added closure of the Hagatna police precinct to the mix.
The governor's communication shop at Adelup had been backing up this direct barrage on the lawmakers throughout, typically jamming nearly 30 news releases per session into the in-boxes of local media, attacking individual legislators by name and the body itself and sending out their cell phone numbers. Some complained of subsequent death threats.
But earlier, Governor Calvo skipped the relatively subtle stuff, instead showing up at the Guam Legislature near midday, berating members loudly and individually and demanding that if they won't pass his bill (245-34), that they resign.
Normally, the relationship between the governor—a former senator—and lawmakers is somewhat collegial, but Governor Calvo abandoned that, pointedly reminding some legislators that they were new to the body.
A clearly angry Calvo told the senators, "If you're going to allow me the responsibility for signing someone's layoff, I'm looking at everyone of you straight in the eye and say 'you resign.' Because you did not work with this administration to keep this government stable and to keep this economy moving forward."
In the short term, Governor Calvo got the basics he sought: A one percent increase in the Business Privilege Tax for the rest of the fiscal year with a new two percent sales tax to follow. With his term approaching its end, some will wonder whether or how the tactics he employed to get his way will affect future relations between Adelup and the Legislature.
Bruce Lloyd is a veteran journalist, who has been a longtime resident of Guam and Saipan. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org