Published on April 1, 2006 by Pacific Daily News
By Shawn Raymundo
Standing at the entrance of the nearly completed Guam Museum in Hagåtña on Thursday evening, Gov. Eddie Calvo delivered his annual State of the Island address.
The location of this year’s address symbolized the theme of Calvo’s speech. With the past behind him — a building that will soon be filled with artifacts from another time — Calvo spoke of the island’s future.
The Republican governor, now midway through his second term, made several announcements in his speech, including a strong, immediate push for a political status vote, the release of $40 million in tax refunds this month and a proposal to help the financially strapped Guam Memorial Hospital.
Toward the end of his more than 6,000-word speech, Calvo announced Guam’s native inhabitants might “finally” be able to vote in a plebiscite to determine the island’s political status.
The governor said on Friday morning, he will “submit a draft measure to petition for the referendum of the political status plebiscite.”
Calvo said he’s already organized a campaign to secure the required number of signatures to get the referendum on the November ballot.
“We will aggressively seek the required number of signatures, making this a grassroots decolonization effort,” he said.
If, by mid-July, depending on how an education campaign to inform the native inhabitants of their political status options is going, Calvo said he would file the petitions.
On the topic of tax refunds, Calvo announced that residents could look forward to roughly $40 million in tax refunds being released this month, covering 13,000 checks.
The state of the island is confident partly because the state of your government is strong,” Calvo said. “It is a government that manages its resources and finances responsibly, values its employees, and delivers services better as a result.”
The governor’s tax refund announcement was met with criticism from the Democratic Party of Guam, which issued several press releases to the media Thursday night, responding to Calvo’s speech. The party pointed out that the Calvo administration’s pace to pay out tax refunds has slowed substantially in the past couple of years.
Referring to the government’s bank account used to set aside income tax revenue for tax refunds, the party stated that the government hasn’t kept up with the mandatory amount of deposits that should have been collected by now.
“The truth is that the tax refunds are $26 million behind; he is fighting our taxpayers in the U.S. Supreme Court, and we owe millions of dollars to our people just as we did before he started,” the Democratic Party wrote.
Touching on the financial burdens facing the government-run hospital, Calvo noted the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority is “bleeding cash and needs a transfusion right away.”
Earlier this year, amid bickering between the Guam Legislature and the governor’s office, Adelup submitted a measure to lawmakers that would use $1.3 million in legislative lapsed budgetary funds to assist the hospital.
Legislative officials, however, said that money already had been adopted into the senator’s operating budgets.
During his address, Calvo said he’s now withdrawing the bill and urging the lawmakers to back a partnership between Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. and Adelup in financing $120 million capital improvements. The endeavor, he explained, would yield $30 million.
“This is on top of revenue-generating programs we are implementing. We can secure a low interest rate if we do this now, and we identified the repayment source,” he said. “If we do this, along with Sen. Rodriguez’s bill that authorizes public-private partnerships, we will stabilize GMH for the foreseeable future.”
Rodriguez said he’s happy to work with the governor to find solutions that would address the hospital’s outstanding vendor payables, which are around $26 million.
“I’m glad that was part of his speech. And I’m going to work together to really develop a long term sustainably plan,” Rodriguez said. “He talked about financing for the immediate needs and I want to see the details on that and based on that we need to move forward, even if we look at the long term plan for the hospital we have these needs now.”
As for other plans, Calvo said, over the next few days he will introduce a bill to assess fees from major real estate transactions, which in turn will be used to infuse the Guam Housing Corporation so it can issue more mortgages to families who have been denied by the banks.
The governor also plans to improve the health and wellness of the island by pushing more resources toward programs and facilities that encourage fitness. Along those same lines, Calvo said he would work with Guam lawmakers to construct more athletic facilities and get more streets paved throughout the villages.
Editor's Note: Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. did not issue a media release following Gov. Calvo's State of the Island address Thursday night. The quotes in the story came from an interview Rodriguez had with Pacific Daily News following the address. The senator was also misquoted as saying he was happy the governor mentioned him in the address. The senator actually said he was happy the governor spoke about the financial troubles of GMH. This article has been corrected and updated.