GUAM BUSINESSES PUSH REFERENDUM TO REPEAL TAX HIKES

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 4) - A business
coalition's push for a referendum to try to repeal the recent tax increases has
received a Guam Election Commission certification that it has met the number of
signatures required to move forward.

Commission Executive Director Gerald Taitano said the proposal
required the signatures of no less than 5 percent of island residents who voted
in the last gubernatorial election, or a minimum of 2,252 signatures.

The commission certified that 3,054 of the first 4,092
signatures reviewed by the election commission were those of registered voters,
according to Taitano.

The referendum proposal's next stop: the Guam Legislature, which
received the election commission certification late Monday.

Tamuning resident Bill Gibson, backed by the business coalition
Committee to Get Guam Working, is pushing for the referendum under the
"Voter Introduction Program" law, which allows citizens to propose
legislation and have the proposed legislation debated and approved or rejected
by senators.

Sen. Lou Leon Guerrero, rules committee chairwoman in the Guam
Legislature, said the proposal will go through the legislative process, which
starts with a 15-day window for her to refer the matter to a committee that will
hold a public hearing.

"We intend to have our voices heard at the hearing and then
eventually on the floor where senators must decide whether to allow voters their
legal right to vote on tax increases as originally required by law,'' according
to a written statement from Gibson.

Gibson is backed by the business coalition which consists of the
Guam Chamber of Commerce, Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, The Employers
Council, Guam Contractors Association and the Japan Guam Travel Association.

The senator said the proposal likely will go to Sen. Toni
Sanford's committee, which deals with tax issues.

Leon Guerrero said she has until June 18 to do so, but she may
not wait that long.

The budget law increased the Gross Receipts Tax from 4 to 6
percent beginning in April.

The tax on a six-pack of beer increased by 18 cents along with
the $1-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes that went into effect last month.

Sen. Leon Guerrero said she always has been clear with her
support of the tax increases. Gov. Felix Camacho sought legislative nod for the
tax increases to help infuse cash into financially strapped government of Guam.

Leon Guerrero, a ranking member of the Democratic majority in
the Guam Legislature, said she does not believe the entire community is against
the GRT tax increase.

And there are more people who support the increase in taxes of
tobacco and alcohol than those who don't, she added.

If the voter initiative passes the Guam Legislature and is
signed into law by the governor, there are other issues to sort through.

For example, Leon Guerrero said, the Legislature will review how
the proposed referendum questions will be phrased.

"This is not a clear and simple bill,'' according to Leon
Guerrero.

And then there's the issue of funding.

The election commission executive director said a special
election will cost the commission about $100,000.

The commission does not have $100,000 for a special election in
its budget, so if the referendum moves forward, the commission will need
additional funding, he said.

June 4, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com 

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