Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Feb 20) – In his State of the Island address yesterday, Guam Governor Felix Camacho came out of his administration's state of denial by openly acknowledging the government of Guam's financial crisis, which he said "can no longer be ignored."

However, what the governor will do to address the crisis wasn't made fully clear.

Camacho said he would transmit his plan for fiscal recovery and deficit elimination to the Legislature "in the coming days." The plan includes "revenue enhancements, expenditure reductions, budget management and cash infusion." But what each of these means wasn't made very clear. Does revenue enhancement mean raising fees and/or taxes? How much expense will be reduced? What cash will be infused into the government?

As for budget management, Camacho wants full control of the entire GovGuam budget, including money spent for the Guam Public School System. That oversight was removed in an attempt to better ensure public education was fully funded.

The governor said cost-containment measures include: a hiring freeze; a 20-percent reduction in travel authorization; and reducing overtime and night differential pay by 50 percent. So how much will this actually save the government? Are there any significant cost cuts planned, such as the elimination of duplicate jobs or agency consolidation?

Camacho also said that the primary component of the deficit elimination plan is to borrow money to refinance existing debt. So this doesn't really eliminate the deficit; it just further extends the debt to future generations of GovGuam taxpayers.

One thing that will not only reduce government costs, but also result in new revenue, is the privatization of government services -- the water system, power, trash collection and the landfill, janitorial and food services, etc. But the only mention of privatization in the State of the Island was of the medical referral offices and "the administration portions of bids for capital improvement projects."

The governor's "solutions" for other priority areas were lacking as well.

To deal with the rising cost of health care, and the shortage of medical professionals and hospital beds -- have people get healthier so they don't need the hospital as much.

To transform the approach to education, the construction of four new public schools seems to be the answer. Nothing about fixing and maintaining current schools. Nothing about the failure to meet the requirements of the Adequate Public Education Act.

"A breakthrough is coming," Camacho said.

We're all still waiting to find out what that breakthrough is, exactly, and when it will happen.

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