GUAM LEGISLATURE NEEDS TO SET PRIORITIES

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (August 9) –-Today, the 27th Guam Legislature is scheduled to go into session to tackle putting together the budget for fiscal 2005. This presents senators, yet again, with the opportunity to finally show their true colors regarding education, public safety and health - the fact that these are the island’s top priorities and should be budgeted accordingly.

Our elected officials have been quick to say that those three critical issues were paramount, but their actions, or we should say inactions, speak louder than their words.

Previously, legislators have cut funding to agencies charged with providing education, health and public safety, though on a smaller scale than other agencies were cut. Then they tried to say, "We cut the budget to those agencies by a smaller percentage, therefore we are making them a priority." Or, they increased spending at those agencies by a small margin and made the same claim, even though the budgets guaranteed shortfalls in vital services.

What’s needed is truly prioritized spending. Take the estimated amount of government revenues, which will be about $538.9 million, according to Vice Speaker Frank Aguon Jr., who's running for re-election. Fully fund public safety, health and education agencies so they can provide the necessary level of service. From the amount left over, you start funding the other agencies, downward by level of importance, until you reach $538.9 million. Then you stop spending.

This will mean that part or all of non-critical agencies and services will be cut (or numerous agencies reduced in size). But it also will mean that the services that are most needed and most important to this community will be able to fully function.

Senators must remember that it’s not their job to represent the individual agencies and employees of the government of Guam. Their duty is to all the citizens of Guam. That means the fiscal 2005 budget must be in the best interest of the entire community.

And lawmakers must not continue to drag out the process until the current fiscal year is nearly over. They need to work diligently and expeditiously on the budget now, and get it passed so the governor has ample time to review and sign it before the beginning of the next fiscal year.

August 10, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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