ANY bill suggesting furloughs for government of Guam employees won’t get any support from Gov. Eddie Calvo.
“I will veto any measure coming from the Legislature that implements an across-the-board furlough,” the governor vowed yesterday during a special address.
“That cookie-cutter approach fails to prioritize critical services. It will jeopardize education, safety and medical functions to the entire community. The worst part is that the size of the government will remain the same,” Calvo said.
The governor was responding to one of the alternatives the Government of Guam Retirement Fund suggested for the Omnibus Reform Budget Act Bill 507-31, specifically the proposal to implement “Furlough Fridays.”
“It’s just a fancy way of saying ‘32-hour workweek’ or ‘20 percent cut in pay.’ I am opposed to it. Not only will this hurt every single employee, but it will not have the effect of reducing the GovGuam workforce,” Calvo stressed.
The governor said political leaders should understand that true savings means cutting the size of government.
“My proposal allows employees to voluntarily separate from government service. My proposal cuts the GovGuam workforce without hurting people. It will actually help those looking to retire,” he said.
The governor also chastised the Retirement Fund for even considering the proposal “after spending the past five years losing hundreds of millions through bad investments.” Calvo said this is the reason why so much taxpayer money is going into the pension.
Yesterday was the deadline Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz set for both the administration and the Retirement Fund to submit their recommendations.
Bureau of Budget and Management Research Director John Rios said he met with Cruz in the morning to discuss the measure and he agrees with the governor’s stand against the furloughs.
Rios also had concerns with the first alternative on voluntary separation and the pension bond. “It all depends on our debt ceiling. The question is: Does our debt ceiling allow for this pension bond,” Rios said, adding he is going to submit his recommendations today to Cruz.
Meanwhile, Calvo is encouraging all GovGuam employees to call the senators to express their concerns.
“Let the senators know that there are other ways of cutting spending, like the proposals I offered to them. Let them know that they shouldn’t balance their mistakes on your backs,” he said.
The governor concluded his address by thanking Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz for his efforts to resolve the issue.
“He has been working with our team and does seem willing to compromise,” Calvo said.
In response, Cruz criticized the governor’s comments in the Speaker's Weekly Address, stating the Legislature “is not in favor of 'Furlough Fridays.'”
“The ‘Furlough Fridays’ proposal is just one of three alternatives that came from the GovGuam Retirement Fund, and any inference to the contrary is a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts,” Cruz said.
According to Cruz, the Legislature agrees that the furloughs would hurt government employees and will not work with the challenges GovGuam is facing.
“But your statements, your desire to lay blame on the Retirement Fund for presenting alternatives won’t work either,” Cruz said as he reminded the governor of his commitment to work with the Retirement Fund to resolve the proposals in the spending cuts bill.
Cruz’s office will announce a hearing on the other alternatives proposed by the Retirement Fund in the next few days. The other alternatives look at savings of about $15 million and $8 million.
“The Retirement Fund presented these alternatives because they may help our cash position and lessen the burden we place on taxpayers by lowering the Fund’s demand on working people. I hope your team will come to the table constructively and continue to be a full participant in this process,” Cruz concluded.