Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (May 9) – For the past seven years, the government of Guam has consistently spent more than it has budgeted for annual operations. All the while, elected officials have talked about the need to tighten the government's belt, to cut costs by reorganizing, making cuts and/or privatizing some operations. But in the end, it's just been that -- talk.

The GovGuam deficit is now more than $300 million. The government owes, in past-due obligations, almost $400 million. Also, GovGuam's Retirement Fund has an unfunded liability of more than $1 billion.

This isn't a sudden problem or a surprise; it's been growing, like a cancer, for years. And every year it gets worse because elected officials - the governor and the senators in the Legislature - fail to address the cause of the problem. They treat symptoms, but never the root issue of this fiasco - the inability to spend within the government's means.

Our elected officials have consistently refused to do what's necessary - to truly cut and prioritize spending of what money the government has. Why? Because they lack the political will. Making tough cuts, consolidating agencies and positions, and outsourcing government services are all unpopular tactics, but are required if the problem is to be fixed.

There is no courage of leadership in our elected officials. In fact, leadership in general is nearly nonexistent. That, coupled with mediocre to poor management at the agency level has resulted in the government's financial condition. Had these issues been addressed from the start, over a number of years, the situation would not be as dire as it is now.

Gov. Felix Camacho and the members of the 28th Guam Legislature need to take steps now to get the government of Guam on the path to financial stability. This means they will have to make some very tough and unpopular cuts, and will have to expedite the process of outsourcing and consolidating services and positions.

It also means they must focus the limited amount of government revenues on the top priority areas - education, public safety and health. This is critical to ensure that the government delivers the services the community requires, and does so at a cost that doesn't exceed government revenues.

It's time to cut the bull and begin the planning and building.

May 9, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com


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