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Back Opinion ben's Pen The next steps

The next steps

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IN 2007, the Legislature – with then-Senators Eddie Calvo and Ray Tenorio voting no – passed a law that provided $112 million for the payment of past-due tax refunds. The law was signed, the money transferred and the checks mailed out to residents without having to get in line.

The past couple of weeks, 2- and 3-year-old past-due income tax refunds were a political opportunity not left wanting of exploitation by the current administration. And they gladly used your money once more to advance their political campaign event like no other. At the direction of the governor, government-paid employees shoved political campaign-like messages into the envelopes that wrapped the people of Guam’s income tax refunds – as if they were gifts from the governor and lieutenant governor themselves. These actions funded by taxpayer dollars and guided by false mindsets place the integrity of the entire refund distribution in question as the people of Guam were subjected to not only waiting years for refunds, but also waiting hours in line to receive what was justly due to them in the first place.

Easily, more than half a million dollars in taxpayer money was spent promoting the event – from flying out consultants to Guam for the signing of documents, to the distributing of income tax refund checks at non-government-related buildings with government-paid workers attaching political messages promoting the governor and the lieutenant governor. This cost the taxpayer about $24 per check distributed.

Although early in the fiscal year, revenues are 7 percent below the governor’s Fiscal Year 2012 projections, our manamko’ are made to live with a decrease in services, and our school children are suffering from excessively hot classrooms – yet the Executive branch finds it feasible to expend money in excess of what would have been necessary if they had simply mailed the checks out last Thursday.

This income tax refund distribution event places clarity as to the priority of the Executive branch when it comes to government funds. Political and self-promotion are apparently above assistance, service, and nurturing of our youth and our manamko’. Now that income tax refunds from tax year 2010 have been paid, the funds that were set aside in the FY2012 budget now must be the focus and priority of the Executive branch. They must not ignore the budget and the mandates set forth by Guam law which direct the Executive branch to pay income tax refunds as budgeted every single month.

The full-color messages printed specifically for political gain stated, “This is part of the first steps to righting this wrong.” This “wrong” mentioned is the underpayment of income tax refunds similar to last fiscal year, wherein the amount of $50 million in income tax refunds was not paid by the Executive branch. Although I have, and continue to keep, a keen eye on the payment of income tax refunds, it is the governor and his Executive branch that controls the actual payment and following of the mandates set in law.

As the governor and lieutenant governor mentioned in the messages they distributed at their political campaign-like event at Guam shopping centers, this was their first step in correcting the injustice they have imposed on the people. Rest assured, I will continue to keep a close eye on the next steps wherein the payment of income tax refunds shall be the main priority of your government – both the Legislature and the Executive branch.

Following the law and sharpening the mandates set forth in the law will enable the Executive branch to keep up with the payment of income tax refunds well beyond any governor’s term in office.

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