HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 23) - The Camacho administration has said that even though the government of Guam isn't in any danger of shutting down in the near future because of financial conditions, our island still needs to borrow $418 million on the bond market.

While this may be true, it is absolutely essential that any money borrowed go to defined priority needs, and that the government of Guam continue efforts to rightsize. Even with an influx of cash from a bond, GovGuam must become smaller, less costly and more efficient.

When lawmakers passed Bill 47, which Gov. Felix Camacho signed into Public Law 27-19, the money was programmed into specific areas: $139.2 million for income tax refunds; $30.45 million for Guam Power Authority debt; $25.28 million for money owed to the Retirement Fund; $15.39 million for line agencies' tax withholding payments; $5 million for what is owed vendors; and $2.7 million for public school repair. Also, $200 million would be used to pay existing bond debts and $28 million would cover debt service of the bond.

Speaker Ben Pangelinan has said that senators can "reevaluate the amount of the bonds and the uses of the bonds," as the Legislature has final approval.

But lawmakers must be exceedingly careful if they decide to do that. Our government needs to pay its debts to taxpayers, utilities, the tax department, the Retirement Fund and vendors. And our schools are in desperate need of repairs to make them meet basic standards.

We can't afford to spend money on pet projects or areas that aren't of critical importance. Likewise, we can't afford to shortchange what is spent on priority areas.

And our elected officials must not simply sit around waiting for bond money; they must continue to consolidate, make cuts, privatize agencies and outsource functions. There still is no light at the end of Guam's economic tunnel; things aren't going to get appreciably better any time soon.

October 23, 2003

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