Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Feb. 28) - The government of Guam, financially, is in shambles. The poor fiscal management of elected officials over the years -- continually running up debt to pay operational expenses, spending more money than the government collects, and refusing to privatize or cut the size and cost of GovGuam -- has caught up with it.

The administration still is unable to provide enough money for the Guam Public School System payroll. Unpaid past-due bills resulted in the Department of Corrections losing water service and the Guam Waterworks Authority is threatening to cut off Guam Memorial Hospital's water, also for unpaid bills. Public school students sweat in hot classrooms that lack air conditioning; some of the schoolchildren have become physically ill from the conditions.

That's why it's so hard to believe that with all of these issues -- and so many more -- caused by problems with cash flow and finances, the Legislature wants the governor to take out a US$10 million loan to pay an initial installment of COLA payments, which would put GovGuam even further in debt.

With this action, senators make it clear they feel that a few thousand retired GovGuam employees are much more important to them than anything and anyone else.

This is a statement that the No. 1 priority of lawmakers is to pay and appease a small, select few -- with money for something that isn't even a defined benefit -- instead of addressing the needs of the community as a whole, or larger groups that also are owed money, such as those who have waited for tax refunds or EITC payments for years.

The Guam law that allows the borrowing of $10 million is intended for when there's an imminent cash shortage that could hamper government operations. Do lawmakers think that not releasing the initial payment of the COLA settlement will actually hamper government operations? If so, can they honestly say it would hamper operations more than no water at corrections facilities or the hospital, or no air conditioning in schools?

If the lack of air conditioning and water isn't a big deal, then the rule should be this: Any time a classroom's air conditioning isn't working and students have to suffer in the heat and humidity, the air-conditioning systems of the Legislature, individual senators' offices, the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor, and GPSS central offices should be shut down and their water turned off. That would be fair! But we seriously doubt it would ever happen, given the self-serving attitudes currently being exhibited by these so-called leaders.

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