Editor’s Note: The Journal posed three questions to senatorial candidates in the Nov. 2 general election. Question No. 1 was What specific measures should the legislature take to stimulate economic activity on Guam? The candidates’ responses are given below. Questions 2 and 3 will appear in the Oct. 18 issue.
Sen. Tina Rose Muna Barnes
More public-private partnerships should be developed similar to GPA’s arrangement and my own law that brings public and private interests together to improve the Paseo Stadium. Previous legislatures ignored opportunities to privatize GTA and pursue private partners for Water Works that could have brought millions to our island increased economic activity and fixed our utilities. Instead the CCU was created and problems continue. Private partners with GWA are necessary to fix our water system. GTA and Port Authority privatization efforts must move forward. Other government functions should be examined for partnering with private sector interests following strict guidelines.
Emphasis should be placed on making our island even more attractive and visitor-friendly. We need to develop more and better cultural/historic attractions that showcase the unique qualities of our people and heritage. Sports tourism should be emphasized and my public-private partnership for the Paseo Stadium facility is a good example of how to increase economic activity. Cleaning-up and beautifying our island and pursuing development of a convention center for Guam can stimulate additional activity within our most important industry.
Guam should become the hub for recycling efforts in Micronesia transshipping each island’s recyclables to Guam where they can be consolidated and shipped to recycling centers in Asia. My “bottle bill” and Municipal Recycling Program will help divert recycables from landfills and roadsides and get them shipped off island. This will help the environment and the economy.
Our island’s tax structure must be examined and revised to assist in stimulating business activity. The legislature has created a Tax Code Commission to do that; funding has been opposed by the governor and Republican senators.
Greater local participation in the increase of military activity should be pursued. Local businesses can benefit from ongoing and future construction and contracting projects.
The linchpin for our economy is tourism. Any strategy for future economic growth must therefore be based on maintaining and developing tourist attractions that will enhance our competitive edge as a tourist destination. Guam’s major tourist attraction is our island’s natural beauty. In the legislature I would focus on ensuring that sufficient budget resources are allocated to preserving that beauty through programs to provide clean streets well-maintained parks and a pollution-free environment. This would not only contribute to the quality of life of the people who live here but also increase our attractiveness as a tourist destination. By backing policies to enhance beautification and preserve the environment we also will be creating opportunities for eco-tourism. In this same vein we need to maintain and develop our sports facilities. With quality sports facilities we can tap into the broad international contracts of local sports organizations to develop this niche in the tourist market.
I feel that there are opportunities to be found in cultural tourism as well. Strong support must therefore be given to programs that promote the Chamorro culture and language and more effectively utilize these resources to support our tourism goals. It is through our culture that we can create a more successful Guam product that will distinguish us from other tourist destinations with their own natural attractions. I believe we can ensure that our visitor industry is viable and growing over the long term. To achieve this goal we must have the vision and commitment to preserve and develop those features of our community that enrich the lives of all of us who live here.
Sen. F. Randall Cunliffe
The legislature should update our local investment incentives which are now outdated since the growth of Guam’s economy. Many of these incentives (including the Qualifying Certificate Program) were enacted in the 1970s. In marketing Guam we must capitalize on our stability both as a territory of the United States and as a responsible local government.
I also believe that the legislature should consider my proposal to allow Chamorro Land Trust residential lot recipients the opportunity to own their land under a Right of First Refusal Program. This will allow residents to collateralize their property and construct permanent homes. I also believe that the Chamorro Land Trust should invite commercial development around the new residential communities being created. In addition to schools churches and other community facilities the Commission should provide incentives to invite more commercial activity in these new communities which will create more jobs. My proposal will also allow residential lot holders with the authority to conduct cottage industry activities at their homes something that is currently in violation of the Chamorro Land Trust Act.
Sen Lourdes A. “Lou” Leon Guerrero
In order to attract outside capital we must capitalize on our island’s natural resources that can evolve into a diversified economic market. These measures occur through our Organic Act responsibilities of appropriation and law-making. We currently have laws that allow for some of these measures which have proven to be effective — i.e. tax rebates qualifying certificates establishment of GEDCA to name a few. For our island to have a logical approach for any economic stimulation measure current and forecasted data is crucial in our planning process and can be used to guide us in our efforts. We need a territorial economist. During this term the 27th Guam Legislature provided the administration the funding to hire such an expert. The I Liheslaturan Guahan continues to specifically fund the basic priorities of health education and public safety. These are all factors that investors look at when making decisions whether to come to Guam or not. In its efforts to secure a stable and growing economy the I Liheslaturan Guahan continues to look at ways to make our community an investor-and business-friendly environment. The Tax Code Commission should be fully funded so that — for the first time — our island can have reliable information to make decisions on the best taxation option that will generate the means to continue the basic services of our infrastructure. Other areas for review are the reduction of employer labor costs and how we can provide livable wages basic health-care coverage and other benefits without compromising services. In the area of health care I am currently researching the concept of a Universal Health Care plan that will minimize the cost of our health-care premiums. As always the I Liheslaturan Guahan continues to be aggressive and proactive on issues that affect the well-being of every member of our community. Certainly a viable and growing economy is at the top of our agenda.
Judith P. Guthertz
Challenge the status quo and develop public policies that support the pro-growth and economic-opportunity agenda for Guam. The current “business as usual” practices of the legislature are neither good for business nor for the people of Guam. If elected to the legislature I will work to develop public policies to create conditions in which business can thrive and prosper. Good public policy is critical for Guam to build a reputation as a good place to do business and a fair place to invest.
Specifically I will work to develop public policies to support a vibrant economy empower our citizens through real direct democracy opportunities so they can better manage their future and help set a real vision and direction for Guam provide the private sector and potential off-island U.S. and foreign businesses strong incentives to invest in Guam and clarify ambiguities and correct errors and inconsistencies in Guam business laws.
It is imperative that both the administration and the legislature work together to strengthen our bond rating. It’s how we do business in the global market and we cannot afford to allow our bond rating to slide further. This means that the Guam Power Authority and the Guam Waterworks Authority must continue to meet their bond obligations and the legislature and administration must ensure that their obligations are not jeopardized.
In addition the legislature should encourage the establishment of new businesses in the private sector particularly small businesses and women who want to break into the business world. The legislature provides Qualifying Certificates to potential businesses that meet the criteria.
Adolpho B. Palacios
The legislature should continue to support and maintain a strong tourism industry. This support must be expressed in legislation that promotes adequate infrastructures sound policies for the hotels and travel industries. The legislators must re-visit the “open sky” and the Jones Act regulations with the aim towards securing exemption for Guam.
Guam must not only say but must demonstrate that we support military growth. There should be legislations that are “friendly” to military growth. We must continue to promote the “Sister Village program.
The legislature must revitalized small-business growth through legislations that encourage growth particularly in the areas of tax incentives and regulations.
Sen. Vicente C. “Ben” Pangelinan
Guam’s business laws need to provide seamless borders in trade and commerce. Businesses faced time and legal delays that increased the cost of investing in Guam. To break down these barriers I authored three laws that revamped our business licensing laws and adopted the Uniform Commercial Code Revised Article 9. P.L. 27-57 updated our business-licensing laws to become consistent with the practices in other investment jurisdictions. It recognizes businesses of many types and sets forth the requirements for establishing businesses on Guam. With a more interstate focus P.L. 26-172 and 27-40 together enacted the UCC Article 9 which nationally governs how business is conducted especially across state borders.
In order to improve education health and public safety while simultaneously investing into our economy I authored P.L. 27-92 which funds for the construction of new schools and repairs of existing ones expansion of GMH and community health clinics and safety upgrades to the corrections facility. This will be secured and repaid solely from the reimbursement of compact-impact funds and not be subjected to the borrowing limitations of Section 11 of the Organic Act. We have successfully implemented this type of borrowing with our Master Tobacco Settlement funds.
Sen. John “JQ” Quinata
As a member of the 27th Guam Legislature I have introduced and have successfully garnered support for specific legislation that would help stimulate economic activity on Guam.
Our goal to stabilize our economy and community can be worked on and ultimately achieved by introducing legislation that devotes available resources from local revenues or new federal grants and federal-entitlement appropriations into capital improvement projects which will stimulate construction providing confidence for local and outside investors to do business on Guam; helps to diversify our economic infrastructure by enhancing fishing manufacturing telecommunication industries off-shore banking facilities foreign sales corporations and the invitation of Asian-based U.S.-owned companies to establish their headquarters on Guam as part of homeland security; and diversifies our existing tourism markets to include military sports and higher education tourism — all of which could ultimately provide more jobs and opportunities for island residents.
Sen. Rory Respicio
To broaden the base of the tourism sector we should invest in eco-tourism and cultural tourism. Our island’s natural beauty especially our coral reefs are treasured assets of this community. We need to step up the protection of these environmental assets for the benefit of residents and visitors alike. I also believe we need to continue to aid cultural organizations like Gef’ Pago and Pa’a Taotao Tano and utilize the richness of our local culture to create additional attractions for our visitor industry. I also believe we need to follow through in fostering the growth of new industries such as recycling. Public Law 27-38 which I sponsored provides for a permanent funding source for recycling programs. Aside from the environmental benefits this initiative will promote growth in private sector recycling operations and create new jobs in this industry. I believe we also need to better coordinate both government and private sector efforts to promote the basing of ships and other military units here. Such coordination will be of crucial importance over the next few years as the federal government begins another round of base closures and Guam has to make its case to retain the units that are already here. Bill No. 265 which I sponsored would establish a Guam Commission on Community Support of the Military Mission. This commission would have representation by elected leaders economic development and infrastructure agencies business organizations and indigenous rights activists. It would be tasked with providing a clear strategy and direction for both attracting and retaining the basing of military units on island.
Sen. Antoinette D. “Toni” Sanford
I read with satisfaction the announcement of a new captive- insurance company choosing to form on Guam. As a first-term legislator I introduced and passed legislation enhancing Guam’s captive-insurance laws and I believe this is a prime example of a specific legislative measure stimulating local economic activity. Another specific example is the Guam Accountancy Act I passed providing for the computerized CPA examination and enhancing Guam’s ability to attract 4 000 plus CPA candidates annually to take this two-day exam.
Additional specific legislative measures I sponsored include enhanced ATM security and availability; creation of a separate focused Banking and Insurance Commissioner to assist future developments in these key industries; a federal Base Operating Support services contracting initiative enhancing Guam’s taxpaying contractors’ competitiveness; and the creation of a quadrennial Legislative Tax Commission to completely remove potential “knee-jerk” politics from our “taxing” equation. This Tax Commission composed of experts charged with the responsibility of reviewing our tax policies and recommending updates will couple Guam’s actual financial history with future economic policy and investment-incentive goals and is designed to provide a financially factual economically viable basis for formulating Guam’s “taxing” future.
I’ve supported public-private partnerships like the Guam Raceway Park and Paseo Stadium agreement which stimulate local economic activity.
Finally I firmly believe the bond financing I authored to bridge the peaks and troughs of our economy will provide a major stimulus for our local market.
Eddie B. Calvo
I will initiate a detailed review of rules and regulations dealing with commerce in the territory. The results from the review will be used to enact legislation that fosters a more “business friendly environment.” I also look forward to creating legislation and initiating marketing programs focused towards enticing American multinationals to set up regional hub offices in Guam. Lastly I would like to assist in creating a more formalized collaborative network between Guam’s educational institutions government social service agencies and the business community with the goal of creating a more motivated and highly skilled work force.
In order to stimulate economic activity on our island we must first take measures to make Guam a good place to live. Without reliable power clean and consistent water distribution and a quality health care system we will continue to have difficulty keeping our own island residents from moving to better pastures off island let alone entice others to live and invest here. Obviously in order to improve our infrastructure we need money. One source of needed revenues is to collect monies already owed to our government. Currently the Department of Revenue and Taxation is owed approximately $100 million in delinquent income taxes. Aggressive and efficient collection efforts can provide for operating expenses and eventually major capital improvement projects.
In addition we need to continue to foster improved military-civilian relationships.
It is not enough to capitalize on our island’s strategic location but we must as a community make Guam a welcome place for military members and their families.
If we take pride in our own home — such as picking up trash enforcing graffiti laws it will be obvious to our visitors tourists and service-members alike that Guam is a great place to visit and live.
Bertha M. Duenas
The private sector drives the economy. The government can support it by providing the right infrastructure. The legislature can do its part in its policy-making role. We need to show potential investors that we can manage our financial affairs before they would then be willing to come and take certain risks here. This begins with fiscal discipline in the way we structure our budget; service our debts prioritize our spending manage our cash etc. We need an educated work force state-of-the-art telecommunications and a business-friendly environment in order to attract investors. We need to continue to build our relations with the military. We also need to maximize Guam’s potential for federal grants-in-aid work hard for debt relief and secure bond financing for certain obligations.
I believe the fastest way to stimulate our economy is to train our workforce. There are many people who are willing to work but lack the skills in trades as well as professional positions that with the proper training will be the driving force to jumpstart our economic engine . Current resources and additional as needed must be directed to training that will result in jobs. The largest group of emerging millionaires in the U. S. are plumbers. Let’s revitalize the trades to support our military expansion with local labor. An educated and well-trained workforce is the best way to attract future investment on Guam.
First and foremost is a simple fact: It is expensive to live on Guam. Utilities and basic essentials contribute to a very high cost of living. Our businesses face challenges to sell at profitable levels and pay competitive wages to employees — then also deal with extra fees they are forced to incur to upgrade infrastructure or technology just to open their doors. These issues are particularly difficult for new businesses with limited capital. The unfortunate reality is that these are the very operations that help create balance and competition for healthy economic growth.
As a senator there are three things I can do: vote no to increase taxes; devise legislation to make essential upgrades to basic infrastructure; and strengthen the public/ private partnerships in areas such as cost-sharing for government utilities upgrades and privatization efforts to save government money and improve levels of services.
Sen. Larry F. Kasperbauer
There are several including Bill Nos. 120 and 122. Bill 120 that I have authored that would allow customers to apply for utility services and receive payments on-line.
Bill 122 would create tax incentives for an investment-banking industry. Investment bankers are financial services companies that create IPO’s stock issues and bond issues. They would not require large fixed-asset purchase or infrastructure upgrades. Guam is subject to U.S. investment laws. The Securities Exchange Commission regulation of the Investment Banking industry provides greater investor confidence in securities packaged by U.S. firms. Guam has great potential to become a financial center without affecting existing industries.
I also would like to see on-line business license applications tax-payments and vehicle-registration renewals. I want to see the elimination of GRT on pass-through cost such as postage fees that are passed on directly to the customer without the seller marking up the price. I support the exemption of medicine from GRT and would like to see the passage of Bill No. 291 which I wrote that will add critical specialty physicians to the list of businesses that will be eligible for Qualifying Certificates.
Sen. Jesse Anderson Lujan
The most important thing the legislature can do is not raise our taxes. When the legislature raised the GRT we saw a sharp fall in private sector employment. This had a cascading downward impact on general economic activity which exacerbated the economic downturn. At present in the second part of the two-part budget for fiscal year 2005 the Democratic majority has included $500 000 to establish a commission to study how to adjust our taxes — a euphemism for finding ways to increase our taxes. When I proposed an amendment to the budget to eliminate this commission and its funding the Democratic majority voted it down. The Democratic majority’s intent to again raise taxes in the next legislative term is clear. Secondly the legislature must provide the attorney general with funding to submit an ap”