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Final wakeup call before $1 million a week fine

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan.16, 2009) - The government of Guam has less than a week to come up with a way to fund the closure of the Ordot dump and opening of a new landfill, or it will be required to pay about US$1 million a week from the General Fund.

It’s the final wake-up call from the federal court to the local government that the solid waste projects will move forward. There won’t be any delays or consideration of other possible landfill sites.

Senators from the 29th Legislature didn’t pass a bond measure that would have paid for the solid waste projects. The 30th Legislature hasn’t taken action either. That’s the reason the federal government appointed a receiver in the first place -- local elected officials have repeatedly done nothing to address the dump and necessary new landfill.

Now then, in conjunction with Governor Felix Camacho, they have until next Wednesday to come up with a funding solution that’s acceptable to U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood.

Camacho said the US$1 million weekly payment would "‘basically destroy our government and our ability to provide services."‘

But that’s only true if the local government continues to operate with its current budget.

The obvious solution, if there’s no alternative funding plan, is to reduce the cost of running GovGuam, while preserving the basic and critical services residents require. Elected officials have routinely avoided making these cuts, but without funding for solid waste projects, there won’t be any other choice.

And to make any significant cost reduction, elected officials will have to find a way to lower personnel costs, which make up more than 90 percent of GovGuam’s budget. They will need to consolidate agencies and eliminate similar administrative positions. The focus will need to be on preserving critical services; across-the-board cuts shouldn’t be considered.

Perhaps elected officials will be able to come up with a financing solution within the next few days and avoid this problem altogether. But if they’re unable to, or if they refuse to, then they must be ready to cut the cost of local government operations.

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