GUAM GOVERNOR SHOULD FUND SCHOOLS, NOT RAISES

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Oct. 19) – At a time when the government of Guam owes hundreds of millions of dollars in past-due tax refunds, earned income tax credits, Retirement Fund obligations, vendor payments and other debts, Gov. Felix Camacho has decided that one of his priorities for limited government revenues is large salary increases for many unclassified employees in his administration.

A number of employees got double-digit raises – ranging from 11.1 percent to as much as 75 percent. Several unclassified employees – who know full well when they take these jobs that they don't have the same rights and protections as classified employees, such as annual pay increases for good performance – are getting thousands of dollars more a year, in some cases as much as US$19,000 more annually.

According to George Bamba, the governor's chief of staff, some of the raises to administration personnel were warranted because they assumed new duties and greater responsibility. And some of the raises, he added, were possible without increasing the budget of the governor's office because employees had left the governor's service.

The philosophy in the administration seems to be to spend as much of its budget as possible, despite the needs of the community. If personnel leave the governor's office and the administration is able to continue operations without filling the positions, why not take the money that went to pay their salaries and transfer it to areas of higher priority, such as the hospital or the Guam Public School System?

In fact, the school system was under funded by the Camacho administration in both fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2006. In both cases, the school system had an adequate budget approved, but the governor's office didn't release the full amount. In fiscal 2006, the school system – and thus, the island's public schoolchildren – was shortchanged by US$11 million. Why not use some of the money saved by employee vacancies for the schools?

Perhaps some of that money could have gone to pay taxpayers who have been waiting for their tax refunds for years. A couple thousand dollars would make a huge difference for many families struggling to make loan payments, pay rent or their mortgage. But, instead of helping out many families, a few political hires reap the benefits.

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