Believe in Guam
A special address by Governor Eddie Baza Calvo
Merry Christmas, my fellow Guamanians,
Ray and I made a promise to you to pay your tax refunds, and by December 5, we will meet that promise.
I understand how difficult this is for many of you to believe. You’ve been dealing with empty promises from politicians for two decades. You’ve been told over and over that a vote for a politician will mean you’ll get your tax refunds, and you’ll get better government. Those promises were broken over and over again. I understand why you wouldn’t believe that Ray and I would keep ours.
I hope the news that your tax refunds are guaranteed to be paid by December gives you hope that you have a government that is getting better… that your leaders keep their promises. Some would call what we did a miracle… but it shouldn’t take miracles to give you what you deserve and do what is right.
I have to admit, this wasn’t an easy journey to get you your tax refunds. We faced stiff opposition in the legislature. Thankfully, Senators Tony Ada, Frank Blas, Chris Duenas, Judi Guthertz, Sam Mabini, Tina Muna Barnes, Adolpho Palacios, Dennis Rodriguez, Mana Silva Taijeron and Aline Yamashita believed what we believed — that the government shouldn’t withhold your tax refunds. Together we proved that we will not yield to political pressure or negativity when it comes to serving the people of Guam
Unfortunately, we missed a huge opportunity. We presented the legislature with a good plan to pay tax refunds through 2011 and all the COLA. After weeks of pushback that didn’t make any sense, the amount was cut and the leadership said we could only pay you some of the money. We were devastated by the compromise. We wanted to give it all to you. But, the leadership argued, without any evidence, that we couldn’t afford the whole bond. They said there was no way we would get the 5.5 percent interest rate we were telling them we could get on the bond. They said our plan was unworkable and that the future of Guam could be bleak.
The funny thing is that investors throughout California, New York and Boston — on the other side of the world — seemed to think something else. They think, just like we do, that Guam has a bright future. They believe in Guam so much, that out of billions of dollars sold on the bond market today, ours was the hottest ticket. There was so much confidence in Guam, that our interest rate not only was below the 6.5 percent cap, it was below our own 5.5 percent goal. We’re getting a record low 4.94 percent interest rate.
To put this into perspective, since 1998, your government has been paying an average of 6.27 percent interest on overdue tax refunds. To all the critics who said this bond would be more expensive than paying down the tax refunds debt over time, or that we were mortgaging the future, I challenge you to do the math. The numbers don’t lie.
But more important than any of that — I challenge you to disagree that this is a great thing for struggling families and their children… for our elderly who can barely afford their medication. How can anyone believe that paying back the people what they are owed is a bad thing? The common theme that has resonated through all this is that government leaders need to do a much better job believing in the people of Guam and all they are capable of doing.
This is just the first of many steps we’re taking to get this government back on a track to putting your needs first. At the start of the next year, we will head back to the bond market to get the rest of the money you’re owed. Success speaks for itself and we’re not stopping now. This is a New Direction, a direction you chose for you and your family. This Administration will continue to raise the standards of service. We will not settle for providing the people of Guam anything less than the best.
I believe in you, and I always will. In this season of joy and thanksgiving, I hope that your quality of life improves, and that the steps we have been taking reach your families with the holiday spirit.
Before I sign off, I want to thank my fiscal team for the endless hours, the sleepless nights and the days they’ve spent away from their families fighting for all of you. In the face of sometimes indecent adversity and intimidation from the legislature, they endured and they never backed down believing in Guam and believing in you. They knew what was right and they never gave up. And with all things given to us, I bow my head in praise to the Good Lord, whose blessings shine upon us on this beautiful day.
Si Yu’us Ma’ase… Si Yu’us en Fan’binendisi… Merry Christmas, and God bless you all.