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Back Opinion ben's Pen Paycuts to high salaries for refunds for the needy

Paycuts to high salaries for refunds for the needy

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Empty promise until caught

THIS administration has shamelessly used the poor to get what they want. Nowhere is this more exploited than the push for the tax refund bond. Everyone from the governor to directors have put the face of the person asking for donations at the intersection for off-island medical care to the son who needs his refund to bury his mother as his reason for the tax refund bond.

 

During the second week of August in the heat of the budget discussion, when things were not going his way, Gov. Calvo ordered a 10 percent salary reduction for himself, Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio and 23 of the island’s highest ranking officials. We will pay the poor their refunds with the pay cuts broadcasted through news conferences, radio and television, in press releases, newspapers, and even in a speech during a meeting with the Guam Contractor’s Association.

Every little bit helps and “I will lead by example,” he declared with every word on the matter.

During weekly reviews of the budget expenditures by the Office of Finance and Budget, we found that since the Aug. 17 announcement of the pay cuts, no salaries were cut in the Governor’s or Lt. Governor’s Office. At first, it was dismissed as just a delay in processing paperwork, but after FOUR pay periods or TWO MONTHS without any salary reductions, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request on Oct. 10 to the Department of Administration (DOA) for the Personnel Action forms that must precede any changes to the governor, lieutenant governor and their employees’ salaries.

In another blow to their transparency pledge and a new weapon, the cover-up, the DOA on Oct. 17 refused to provide the Personnel Actions.

They did inform me that DOA records showed 17 employees receiving salary reductions and none for the governor and lieutenant governor.

The letter from DOA still left me baffled because the financial management system showed that no one at the Governor or Lt. Governor’s Office had yet to receive a salary reduction. This prompted me to write another letter to DOA on Oct. 21, emphasizing that DOA does not have the discretion to withhold the Personnel Action forms of government employees. Thankfully, DOA agreed with my interpretation of the law and provided the requested information on Oct. 28.

What we discovered was that there was no action to reduce salaries of anyone ordered by the governor in Reorganization Advisory #4 until Oct. 14 – four days after my request to review this information. I am sure that the administration will have an excuse for the timing of paperwork; and in the end, it seems clear to me that the administration first tried to get away with not cutting the salaries as promised, and then when caught, they processed the paperwork after the fact to cover it up.

As of today, the governor and lieutenant governor still have not reduced their salary and because of the delay of implementing any reductions, no taxpayers have received a tax refund from the savings.

This whole experience reminds me of a former boss that took many similar actions but did so with humility. Leading by example did not have an agenda, but rather it was the right thing to do. This same individual taught me that without action, words are meaningless.

I sincerely hope that the governor will follow through to make sure that the poor people he said so desperately needed their tax refunds will get their tax refund paid for with the savings.

And while he is paying refunds to assist people needing off-island medical care, he should transfer all of his airline miles from his many off-island trips to the Ayuda Foundation's "Wings for Life" Program that assists indigent patients with free tickets for off-island medical care.

Similar to the situation with our ambulances, lives depend on swift action from our government to implement Public Law 31-117, which requires employees from all branches and instrumentalities to transfer frequent flyer miles accumulated through government-paid travel to the Senator Edward J. Cruz Medical Referral Mileage Bank Account Act.

The implementation and success of this law requires leading by example from the top of all organizations in the government. I humbly request that the governor and DOA respond expeditiously to enact the rules and regulations as quickly as possible.
Si Yu’us Ma’åse.

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