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Guam Democrats open to BPT rollback, back repeal of new property tax



By Aurora Kohn


Democratic candidates for the legislature on Tuesday expressed willingness to repeal a law that imposes an additional 100 percent tax levy on Guam real estate with improvements valued at $1 million and above.


“I would like to see that repealing it would actually have the effect of relieving the prices on renters. That’s the key for me,” Speaker Therese Terlaje said at a virtual forum hosted by the Guam Association of Realtors.


She also supports a rollback of the business privilege tax from 5 percent to 4 percent if such a move would enable businesses to provide jobs to more Guam residents.


Fred Bordallo, a former police chief, said he was open to a BPT rollback as long as it would not affect the delivery of public services.


“I want to look at the revenue and expense report of the government of Guam first and see how that is tracking,” Bordallo said. “If critical public services, like public safety and our health, would be affected, then of course, I don’t want to have that revenue cut off there.”


Addressing the cumbersome and protracted process of obtaining building permits, the candidates said some of the bottlenecks have been identified.


In the legislature, Terlaje said, senators are currently working on measures to simplify the process.


“The governor and the task force that she set forth promised to set forth a building permit application that was going to be online, streamlined and have concurrent review process as opposed to a one-by-one review process of the agencies,” she said. “We have followed up in various hearings with the status of that and supposedly it’s been bid out and ready to go.”


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The candidates recognized a severe lack of affordable housing on Guam.


Kelly Marsh-Taitano said green and less costly ways to construct homes need to be explored. She also said Guam’s building code needs to be updated to accommodate more green and affordable ways to build homes.


Terlaje said a newly signed law, which she authored, allows the Guam Land Use Commission and the Chamorro Land Trust Commission to lease submerged land to companies “to bring in telecommunications cable.”


She explained that the law allows funds collected from license fees to be directed toward surveying the property and bringing in utilities without raising the cost to the people of Guam.


“I’ve included sewer and telecommunications to Chamorro Land Trust properties,” she said. “That, I think, would very much improve affordable housing on Guam.”


The candidates did not favor a recurring proposal for a part-time legislature.


“The legislature is not a part-time agency. It has full-time issues and it needs full-time attention,” Roy Quinata said. “We need to be assuring our people that they have access 24/7 to each legislative member.”


Speaking on their legislative priorities, Bordallo said he would prioritize bills to “secure the future” for Guam families, “to keep Guam safe” and curb substance abuse.


Jonathan Savares said his priorities would focus on “sustainability” and “strengthening communities.”


Marsh-Taitano said Guam’s procurement laws need to be reviewed and amended.


“The procurement laws are tripping us up, making things take too long,” she said. “We want the transparency and accountability, of course, but we need to get it streamlined.”


On the subject of the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa, Bordallo, San Nicolas and Quinata said they support the military buildup.


Quinata underscored the importance of working with Guam’s delegate to Congress to make sure the territory maximizes the benefits of the military buildup and that related issues and concerns are properly addressed.


“We need to ensure that the military buildup is happening not only inside the gate but also outside the gate,” Quinata said.


On the topic of political status, both Bordallo and Savares expressed a preference for free association with the United States. They noted that Guam should have a “seat at the table.”


Dwayne San Nicolas and Marsh-Taitano expressed support for the government’s plan to build an integrated medical complex at Eagle’s Field in Mangilao.


Marsh-Taitano said one possible source of funding for the new hospital is “true and more appropriate reimbursement for Compact impact.”


She noted that Guam has only been reimbursed an estimated 10 percent of the total expenses incurred for hosting the Compact migrants. She said Guam may be owed as much as $500 million, which could be used as leverage for assistance in building the new hospital or parts of the planned medical complex.


Quinata said the issue of compensation for affected landowners in Mangilao must be addressed prior to any groundbreaking activities for the planned medical complex at Eagle's Field.




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