2020 State of the Island Address

Read the full transcript of Guam Gov. Lourdes Leon Guerrero's 2020 State of the Island Address delivered before the 35th Guam Legislature on Feb. 24, 2020. at the Guam Congress Building Hagåtña, Guam


Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio, Madame Speaker Tina Muña Barnes, Chief Justice Phillip Carbullido, Delegate Michael San Nicolas, members of the 35th Guam Legislature, Mayor Melissa Savares, Mayors and Vice Mayors, First Gentleman Jeff Cook, distinguished guests, friends and family:

A year ago, I walked into this chamber committed to Restoring Faith in Guam’s Future.

I wanted to tackle old problems in new ways and return civic faith to those who had lost it.

The road toward this effort has not always been smooth, but our progress has been significant.

Our unemployment rate is down. The labor participation rate is up.

And more than one thousand people have joined skilled apprenticeship programs since Josh and I came to office.

One hundred fifty two working families can now live in new affordable homes, compared to just five from the year before.

And instead of closing police and fire stations, we’ve added nearly 100 new officers to the Guam Police Department, the Department of Corrections, and the Guam Customs & Quarantine Agency.

Last year I reported that we returned money that should have never been taken from our E-911system.

And tonight I can report that, thanks to Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio’s leadership, we avoided the past practice of having to return millions in federal grant money simply because we are now spending it more efficiently.

Together, we also turned the page on other problems of the past.

We ended costly federal receiverships at the landfill and the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center.

By nearly every unbiased measure, our government is operating more efficiently.

We are paying down more debt and working with less General Fund revenues than our predecessors.

Tax refunds were paid before the federal court’s deadline. Cost of Living Allowances were paid early, and we now get a better return on our Medicaid matching dollars because we were able to shrink Guam’s local match requirement by 62 percent.

Contrary to a small chorus of cynics, we’ve improved our cash flow, increased tax collections beyond what this body projected, and our Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposes a General Fund $19 million less than what was spent in 2018.

In our budget proposal, I included provisions for a Rainy Day Fund, requiring a set aside of no less than 2 percent of the total revenues projected. This provision will help us to protect Guam’s future no matter how rough our economic seas.

We’ve also gone after tax evaders, referring individual cases to the Attorney General, totaling $5.9 million in the last year alone. And we will continue.

We’ve cut taxes for our small businesses, saved millions on capital improvement projects because we refinanced debt in more responsible ways, secured millions in new federal spending for Guam, and adopted policies that will reduce, and eventually eliminate, this government’s deficit.

We have quietly, but effectively, stabilized our government’s finances. We have done what we promised we would do.

And tonight, I am proud to report that our island is stronger than it was just one year ago.

But to fully restore faith in our island’s future, Guam must become even stronger.

Guam has always understood that what touches the larger world ripples throughout our island community as well.

Whether it was a world at war, trade disputes between rival nations, or the outbreak of diseases like bird flu, SARS, dengue, or coronavirus—

Guam learned… Guam prepared…

Guam came together…

And Guam has always weathered the storm.

To date, Guam remains coronavirus free, and our dengue fever outbreak is over.

From day one, our pandemic response plan has worked to keep Guam safe AND open to the world.

This means that we are working with the Centers for Disease Control and public health officials to screen visitors from impacted countries before they board planes

for Guam, and screen potentially symptomatic passengers before they de-plane here.

It means that we take clear steps to limit the risk of transmission whenever possible.

That is why I ask every organization holding large international events on Guam to join in our screening efforts—adding yet another defensive ring around our island.

As we protect against the coronavirus, we also know that fear can impact our economy.

With nearly one-third of private sector jobs directly or indirectly tied to tourism, know this:

Guam is doing all it can to remain virus free. Guam is safe.

And we are ready for your business.

The latest available data indicates that total tourism numbers year to date are still in the black, that federal and military spending are at record levels, and that the fundamentals of our economy are strong.

While we remain confident, my fiscal team is keeping a close watch on the situation—preparing for all possibilities and monitoring the economic impacts of this new threat. But we know that minimum wage workers are not a part of that threat.

They should not be seen as “a primary overhead expense” but as an investment in our greatest asset—our people.

Our minimum wage is set to increase by 50 cents next week—and it will.

But n o change in wages matters if Guam’s families do not feel safe in their homes or on our streets.

The machete attack that threatened our neighbors in Mangilao last June could have happened to any of us, and it proves that we must stem the rising tide of crime on our island. At public safety town hall meetings, you asked for action—and we heard you.

The result is our Safer Guam Initiative—which calls for aggressively recruiting 100 new police officers, installing traffic cameras, regulating alcohol access, stopping drugs at our borders, ending plea deals without hearing the voices of victims, and denying parole for violent or sex-related offenders. These actions send a clear message: Enough is enough.