Regaining Trust in Government by Fulfilling Promises
By Eddie Baza Calvo
A lot has changed since we came to office. We stemmed the fiscal tide against us in Fiscal Year 2011. We ended Fiscal Year 2012 with an annual surplus. Then we did what no one believed we could do in only two years. We eliminated the entire accumulated deficit and replaced it with a surplus. For the first time since Governor Joe Ada was in office, your government is running in the black. I’d say that’s pretty Mauleg.
A lot of deficit spending occurred over the last two decades. And that didn’t stop GovGuam from doling out empty promise after another. If it wasn’t tax refunds, it was merit bonuses, promised compensation, increments, even a new pay scale for all employees. All these liabilities dug us deeper in the hole. But worse, it broke the trust government had with its employees and the people it is supposed to serve.
I made a promise to you to fix the mess we were left with. We worked hard at it. We did not anticipate to stabilize finances within two years, but here we are today. We are paying out the merit bonuses, increments, promised compensation, tax refunds, and even long-standing legal claims. All of these were empty promises for years until now.
Part of the reason we’re able to do all these things is because we saved the money to do it. We cut spending early in the administration. We instituted the 15 percent reserve. We cut our own pay. GovGuam employees picked up the slack whenever their co-workers retired or resigned and we didn’t fill the positions. All of this added up.
One of the major factors that allowed us to save was the suspension of the Hay Plan. It also kept us from going bankrupt in 2011. That pay adjustment was implemented without regard for the government’s ability to sustain payments. At the time I asked GovGuam employees for their patience and sacrifice. I told them we just couldn’t afford it, but as soon as we could, I would be the first to restore it.
That day has come. Revenues are expected to be available in Fiscal Year 2014 because the two-percent reserve for deficit elimination will be obsolete — there is no more deficit to eliminate. We have every reason to believe the revenues will come in. Even still I’m not going to take the risk of making an empty promise. That’s why we’ll incrementally phase in the Hay Plan. We will use cash collections data to be safe and conservative about our decisions. We will phase in the pay adjustments — how much to pay and when more can be released – based on this data.
This is the fiscally-responsible way to approach these pay adjustments. On one hand we are showing GovGuam employees good faith that, as finances afford, we will make good on the promise to pay them what they have earned. On the other hand, we are basing these decisions on fiscal realities so the adjustments are sustainable… and not just an empty promise based on false hope.
We’ll continue forward with our fiscal policies that have gotten us this far. There are a few liabilities left to pay after these. All in all, I’d say this steady progress is not bad. Not bad at all. This is the new direction we talked about. This is the right direction we’re leading our island in.
AUDIO FILE: 6.10.13 Weekly Address_1-2