Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Dec. 20) - Once again, the government of Guam is basically stealing money from some of its employees, and nothing is being done to address it.

The Guam Public School System hasn't had enough money to pay its full payroll in recent weeks, so it has only been paying enough to cover employee paychecks -- and not paying for direct deposits from employee checks for mortgage or other loan payments, health insurance premiums and taxes.

It also hasn't been fully paying the Retirement Fund, so yet again eligible school system employees can't retire. And Paula Blas, the Retirement Fund's director, said there are other agencies that aren't paying the full amount of what's due in retirement contributions.

This is beyond wrong -- it's against the law. The government of Guam has to pay its employees the money that they've earned, even if some of it is automatically deducted from their paychecks for a payment of any kind. If the government takes that money, it is essentially stealing money, even if the money is paid back at some later date.

Why is this situation allowed to continue without any repercussions to those responsible?

If a private company decided, for whatever reason, to not give its employees the money they had earned by not paying for payroll deductions, those responsible would be facing criminal charges.

So what makes it acceptable when it's the government that's doing it?

And why does it always seem to be the education agencies that suffer first when the government has cash-flow problems? Education is supposed to be a priority for funding, but instead it's only at the top of the list when it comes to shortchanging agencies of budgets -- and not just GPSS, but the University of Guam as well.

Last year, elected officials approved government pay raises, including hefty raises for teachers and unclassified employees in the governor's office. They made it seem like there was plenty of money in government coffers.

But there isn't, and there's no guarantee the situation will improve anytime soon.

This situation needs to stop. For government employees to hear at Christmas time that they are two months behind in their mortgages after the money already was deducted from their paychecks is absolutely shameful on the part of the government. It is time that this administration take long-overdue austerity measures to better cope with its very real cash problem, including ensuring that government employees receive their full pay.

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