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Guam political action committee: 'Economic disaster in the making' without the right leaders

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Guam's newly launched political action committee vowed Wednesday to harness votes for candidates who will reduce the size of the government and roll back the business privilege tax from 5% to 4% at least until the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, among other things.

Action PAC Inc. said it will endorse senatorial candidates, regardless of political party, so long as they support and fight for the political action committee's five initiatives.

"We believe the time for change in our government is now and electing the right candidates will give our island a better chance at recovering, rebuilding and becoming more fiscally responsible to the people of Guam," said Action PAC Chairwoman Christine Baleto.

Action PAC officials said it's time a coalition of local residents, business groups, nonprofit organizations and anyone who calls Guam home become a key voting bloc.

Laura Dacanay, executive director of Action PAC, said "without the right leadership at this crucial time," many businesses could fail.

Some have already closed from the impact of the first shutdown, she said.

Covid-19-related layoffs, furloughs and reductions in work hours now affect about 37,000 people as reported by employers. Federal unemployment claims number nearly 55,000, based on government data.

A woman holds signs on San Vitores Road in Tumon last week as she joins other residents protesting the stay-at-home order issued by Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. Photo by Norman M. Taruc/ The Guam Daily Post

"This is an economic disaster in the making for our small island community and we need elected leaders who will help us, help businesses recover and survive, and employ our workforce in its fullest capacity," Dacanay said during a virtual news briefing Wednesday.

She said with reduced government revenue, "I think all of us are going to be in for some financial crunch in the near future." But electing the right leaders, she said, will hasten Guam's recovery.

GEC awaits organizational report

Guam Election Commission Executive Director Maria Pangelinan said the commission has yet to receive an organizational report from Action PAC.

Action PAC officials said they have started receiving contributions that will be used to support candidates in the Nov. 3 general election.

Pangelinan said political action committees, like candidates, are required to file an organizational report with the commission within 10 days of raising or spending campaign-related funds.

Political action committees, according to Pangelinan, operate independent of the candidates they support.

5 initiatives

George Chiu, vice chairman of Action PAC, laid out the committee's five initiatives:

  • Decrease the size of the local government.
  • Improve transparency in all levels of the government of Guam, including improved communication and collaboration with the business community.
  • Support the realignment of military assets to Guam.
  • Support a part-time Legislature.
  • Roll back the business privilege tax from 5% to 4% immediately.

Chiu said the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has had to operate with drastically reduced budgets during worse economic times.

From more than $200 million in its annual budget, the CNMI's proposed 2021 budget is now around $80 million because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chiu said when Guam's $1.8 billion annual tourism industry is at a standstill, he doesn't think it's right to maintain the same government budget of between $900 million and $1 billion, though Guam is fortunate to have military spending to make up for some of the shortfall.

Temporary or permanent rollback

Baleto said the 2019 audit shows GovGuam not only covered its operational budgets from tax revenue but was able to pay down a deficit.

She said this also means there is room to support the private sector's recovery from the Covid-19 crisis by rolling back taxes.

This can help businesses recover and bring their employees back to work.

If the government is looking at two years to fully recover, then Action PAC hopes for a two-year rollback in the business privilege tax, if not a permanent rollback, Baleto said.

It's not about pitting the government against the private sector, she said, it's about working together to help the economy recover.

'Strength in numbers'

Baleto said in this time of crisis, Action PAC's goal is to create awareness of issues and support candidates "that will have the most impact in improving the quality of life for all of us."

She said the political action committee is "driven to effect change through strength in numbers as a voting group," using the members' ability to rally support for the right candidates.

Officials said Action PAC includes the following partners:

 

  • Chinese Chamber of Commerce, 106 members.
  • Guam Association of Realtors, over 500 members.
  • Guam Chamber of Commerce, over 400 members, representing over 40,000 employees on Guam.
  • Guam Contractors Association, over 480 members.
  • Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, over 300 members with more than 20,000 employees.
  • Guam Women's Chamber of Commerce, over 200 members with some 4,000 employees.
  • Guam Korean Chamber of Commerce, over 40 members.

"All of these organizations stand in support of Action PAC Inc.," Dacanay said. "We will be vetting candidates that support the five initiatives that we are looking for, for the betterment of our island community."

Earlier, small businesses also formed the Guam Business Owner Coalition, led by Thomas Peinhopf and Regina Timmermann-Levanas.

They recently filed a civil claim against GovGuam for forcing them to shut down their businesses for about five months now. The maximum claim, they said, is $100,000 per business.

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