On the campaign trail and since taking office, a lot of promises and post-election commitments were made. I estimate the promises/commitments to add an additional $200 million to $300 million to the nearly $1-billion budget submitted to the legislature. Maybe the fact she addressed none of the campaign promises or post-election commitments in her speech is why, to her, the “state of our island is promising.”
In Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s “State of the Island (SOTI)” speech was full of the traditional “smoke and mirrors” that declared loudly the traditional differences between “campaigning” and “governing” will continue with this administration. There is an old saying that applies to her speech: “Your actions speak so loud. I can’t hear a word you are saying.”
We are more than one hundred days in the LG/T administration and there has not been a single dime deposited into the tax refund account as required by law, and promised by Candidate Leon Guerrero. Governor Leon Guerrero signed into law a real estate tax increase she claimed on the campaign trail Guam did not need.
Campaigning Leon Guerrero claimed her administration would aggressively collect taxes owed ensuring that all taxpayers paid their fair share. Leon Guerrero’s administration announced it saw no need to impose penalties or interest on a business that avoided paying over $13 million in taxes, made no effort to collect more than $40 million of delinquent property taxes, and has made no effort to collect taxes on the estimated $40 million dollars of revenue passing through the hands of unregistered short term vacation businesses. In her SOTI she took credit for paying $5 million of Calvo/Tenorio 2017 tax refunds.
Campaigning Leon Guerrero told us Guam Memorial Hospital would be her administration’s priority, and in her SOTI she reminded us for about the 437th time she still has her nursing license, but what she did not say in either her SOTI or budget were concrete plans or steps taken in the first 100 days to make campaign promises a reality. Instead she pushed through and signed the GRMC corporate welfare bill designed to start the process gut GMH financially to the point the government will have no choice but to enter into a very expensive “public/private” partnership, or buy GRMC’s financially struggling facility to replace GMH’s aging facility, using the taxpayer credit card, leaving our great grandchildren to make the payments.
Campaigning Leon Guerrero declared she would reduce operating costs by streamlining the government and improving efficiency. Governor Leon Guerrero has added staff, given pay raises, revived and staffed defunct government departments dramatically increasing the cost of government.
My question to Governor Leon Guerrero is where will she get the money to pay for the new hires and pay raises? This is the same problem facing Hawaii where the legislature has been considering a $16 billion budget for FY 2020 that would spend more money than its projected to take in.
Watching governors pivot from “campaign mode” and promising to do the hard work, into “patronage mode,” hiring campaign supporters and giving them high paying jobs far beyond their ability to execute effectively is kind of a Guam tradition.
As a result, Hawaii’s politicians are scrambling to find new ways to raise tax revenue, and that, says Keli’i Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, is “backward budgeting.” Everything I’ve heard so far is the Leon-Guerrero/Tenorio administration is on the same path, and that is not a good thing for taxpayers.
My guess is she will follow the “traditional path of least resistance” and raise a number of fees and propose new taxes.
Already we are starting to see trial balloons being floated by the administration with news stories on potential fee increases for election petitions, college tuitions, trash collections, building permit fees, utility rates, health insurance premiums, mass transit fares, GHURA property rents, commercial port charges and airport passenger fees.
If Governor Leon Guerrero follows that path, she will be making a complete break from the promises Campaigning Leon Guerrero made as part of her platform that “aggressive tax collections will eliminate the need for a Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration to borrow money, raise fees or add new taxes.”
Watching governors pivot from “campaign mode” and promising to do the hard work, into “patronage mode,” hiring campaign supporters and giving them high paying jobs far beyond their ability to execute effectively is kind of a Guam tradition. It’s called the “path of least resistance” for a reason. It is easier to borrow money, raise fees, and add new taxes on tens of thousands of people you don’t know personally; than to tell a campaign worker they aren’t qualified for the high paying executive job they want as repayment their campaign work.
The first 100 days of the Leon Guerrero/Tenorio administration, and the 35th Guam Legislature, saw a lot of diversions from the “hard road ahead” to the “path of least resistance.” With their intense focus on legalizing gambling and recreational marijuana use, they were able to avoid dealing with the myriad of financial problems facing the island, the government, and the people. That shows us that the financial problems that threaten the island, the government, and the people are about to get worse before they get better as politicians pursue their agendas, and not the agendas they presented to us on the campaign trail to get our votes.
Based on the fact that Adelup’s first budget, and the budgets of every department that has appeared before the legislature so far has asked for more money –not less, gives taxpayers a very good reason to be worried.
The governor’s SOTI address and first budget has been presented to the legislature and we will get a chance to if any of the campaign promises about reducing the cost of government made by legislators in their bids to get elected/reelected are going display the same arrogant level of disconnect between campaigning and governing. Will they follow the LG/T administration down the “path of least resistance,” proposing a combination of borrowing, raising fees, and adding new taxes; or if they are truly the people’s representatives are going to work hard to help ease the financial burdens on taxpayers.
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Ken Leon-Guerrero is the spokesperson of Guam Citizens for Public Accountability. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org