GUAM PAY RAISES: CHAMACHO’S FINAL FOLLY

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Dec. 27, 2010) – In the waning days of his administration, Guam’s Governor, Felix Camacho continued to build on his legacy of financial mismanagement by ordering the government to move forward with implementing pay raises.

About 5,000 Government of Guam employees will receive pay raises in their January 7 paychecks. Camacho said the increases to pay were to create "fairness and equity within the government."

But the raises come at a time when the local government is in a state of financial crisis. For weeks, it has been unable to pay full payroll deductions for all employees. It continues to delay payment to vendors. In the case of Guam Memorial Hospital, the failure to pay at the hospital threatens the proper treatment and safety of patients.

The fiscal 2011 budget also doesn't fully cover government expenses. It doesn't include full funding for government employees' health insurance. The pay raises are projected to cost millions more than the US$13 million appropriated for them. The budget also leaves out the cost of funding court-ordered improvements for services to people with disabilities, and doesn't fund interest on past-due tax refunds, among other gaps.

Implementing the pay raises is fiscally irresponsible and will leave the incoming administration of Gov.-elect Eddie Calvo and Lieutenant Gov.-elect Ray Tenorio on shaky financial footing.

What about being fair and equitable to the island's taxpayers, who will suffer the brunt of the cost of these pay raises? For decades, taxpayers have shouldered the burden of the local government's fiscal irresponsibility via bond payments from large borrowing measures.

Local elected officials have continually refused to make the cuts or take other measures to make the government live within its means. Continual overspending has led to a massive deficit with little to no improvement in government services. Where is the sense of fairness in that?

The first measure the new administration needs to take when it assumes office January 3 is to put a hold on these pay raises. It then must work with the 31st Guam Legislature to make significant cuts to ensure the government of Guam can operate within the limits of its revenues.

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