Every trip a government of Guam official makes at the public's expense – every amount his or her agency spends on nonessentials such as catered food for a government ribbon-cutting, festivals on the taxpayer dime, glossy newsletters that can be sent instead by email, fancy hotel venues for conferences and other expenses – must pause.
Expensive office rent for nonessential government offices and functions must end. Payroll and benefit costs seriously must be reviewed to identify where the fat should be trimmed.
One of the more compelling reasons is that the local government has been piling tax and fee increases on us while GovGuam, according to the recently audited 2018 budget year, has spent beyond its means, a report released by Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz showed.
And for those who didn't notice the recent release of the U.S. Government Accountability report, find time to read it. It's posted today at PostGuam.com. The GAO put the public debt on Guam into perspective.
Guam's public debt has more than doubled from $1 billion a decade ago to $2.6 billion in the 2017 budget year.
This public debt can be broken down to $16,106 for every man, woman and child on the island based on a population of 162,500 in 2017. That's an increase in public debt per capita of $15,334 two years earlier.
GovGuam's debt burden of $2.6 billion is nearly half of the size of Guam's annual economic output.
The government's pension liabilities, at $1.6 billion, are nearly 28% of the entire amount of goods and services the island produces in one year.
The GAO report identifies the biggest borrowers are the Guam Power Authority, $592 million; Guam Waterworks Authority, $534 million; A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority, $226 million – among the agencies that crank up their own revenue.
Each year, the local government will face rising debt repayments. This puts pressure on GovGuam to make taxpayers foot the tab even more. Ditto with GPA and GWA, which are already hitting ratepayers with high power and water costs.
GovGuam's borrowing and GPA and GWA's debts are hitting our pockets on multiple fronts. These have affected our ability to afford living on Guam.
Residents have choices before them, and paying more taxes and higher rates will become increasingly difficult to swallow.
We are not like bankrupt Puerto Rico yet. But when things got dire for many residents of Puerto Rico, their choices were to stay home and live in hardship or seek someplace in the states where they can live better.
Puerto Rico is a cautionary example for Guam.