Robbing the hood

Illustration courtesy of Ken Leon-Guerrero 

Unlike the original “Robin Hood and his Merry Men” who robbed the rich to give to the poor, Guam’s version robs the poor to give to the rich.

How else can we explain Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Speaker Tina Muña Barnes' outrageously bloated nearly billion-dollar fiscal year 2020 budget or the first slice of pork dished out to politically well-connected insiders – Public Law 35-2, the "Guam Regional Medical City Welfare Act?"

All the fears voiced by the public are coming true as the largest contract managed by the government, just got a per-person increase of $1,200 a year based on the premiums to be paid by the court system. This confirms all the predictions the law will cost taxpayers an additional $20 million a year.

More troubling about these higher costs now after reaching the end of the budget process; is the fact there doesn’t seem to be any offsets to pay premium increases. When senators claim to be surprised, they will have limited options for dealing with those increased premiums.

They could pass on the increased costs to employees. There is no chance of that happening since the politicians are already in campaign mode, and recognize the reelection risk they take pissing off government employees who make up the largest voting block on Guam.

Their second option is to repeal Public Law 35-2. They could find a little political cover explaining they voted for Bill 30-35 without a fiscal note assuming any increases would be minimal. No one will believe them, but sometimes a “fig leaf” is just a fig leaf. The real reason they won’t repeal the law is the fear of pissing off campaign check writers at two of the largest organizations on the island: Bank of Guam and GRMC.

The most likely option for politicians will be to combine the increase in health care premiums with the perennial “Guam Memorial Hospital is going broke” scare, so they can justify an emergency increase in the business privilege tax up to 5.5% or 6%, or push through a 2% sales tax, or a combination of both; claiming the changes will only be temporary, hiding behind the “fig leaf” of protecting senior citizens, and the children.

The Leon Guerrero administration will probably borrow another page from the Calvo administration and park a hearse in front of the Legislature, claiming failure to add or increase taxes will doom our “seniors and unborn children.” There will be the traditional parade of doctors begging senators for more funding so they can continue to save lives.

There will be one big difference this time around. GMH’s most effective spokesperson, Dr. Kozue Shimabukuro, who was driven off the island after testifying on corruption she observed at GMH, won’t be there to testify.

Now that the outrageously bloated fiscal 2020 budget has passed, more numbers will start coming out showing just how much political pork the governor and speaker dished out to politically well-connected insiders at taxpayer expense.

In the meantime, the financial struggles the rest of us fight daily just to survive just keep getting harder.

Ken Leon-Guerrero is a resident of Santa Rita.

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