Bill 133's fallout: local business community outraged at Legislature

by Ken Wetmore, KUAM News
Thursday, October 30, 2003

While Dr. Osman said he sees a need for a more cooperative relationship between the Government of Guam and businesses to identify the island's problems and their solutions in the Bank of Hawaii’s 2003 Guam Economic Report, at this point Guam's business community isn't so happy with the recent actions of Guam's elected leaders.

After no debate, no discussion - just a quick vote straight down partly lines, a voter initiated piece of legislation got a big thumbs-down from the democrats in the 27th Guam Legsilature. Bill 133 would have given the voters of Guam the opportunity to repeal the recent implementation of tax increases.

Always the outspoken businessman, Al Ysrael told KUAM News, “Welcome to La La Land...Guam has become part of the DisneyWorld or Land of Fantasies. These guys have no semblance of what the economic reality is and they've betrayed the people, they have a callous disregard for the wishes of the voters and they've trashed our economy.”

Bill 133 was introduced through the Voter Introduction Program and a petition with more than 5,000 signatures was submitted to the Guam Election Commission. It was certified and then shot over to the Legislature, which then held not one, but a series of public hearings. The measure received backing from a number of local small businesses, the Guam Medical Society, the Guam Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Merchants Association and the Committee to Get Guam Working.

Simon Sanchez, a member of the latter organization, said, “We will definitely be contacting those who signed the petition and let them know which senators were willing to trust them and those who weren't”.

According to Republican Senator Robert Klitzkie, he tried his best, but apparently it wasn't good enough to sway any of the Democrats. “I've taken everything I can do to convince my majority colleagues as to what I think the right thing to do is...there really isn't much to say,” he stated.

Despite opposing such a move last year when former governor Carl Gutierrez suggested the idea, it was the Camacho Administration that actually introduced the idea of raising taxes to infuse cash into the government. Just a year ago then-senator Felix Camacho scoffed at the idea of increasing taxes, saying, “Fiscally, you do not go after and increase taxes in an economy where all the businesses are already ailing, saying it would have a disastrous, negative effect.” He added that local businesses will react by further reducing manpower and work hours, while prices will go up for consumers.

Democrats however, in the 27th Guam Legislature didn't oppose Governor Camacho's increase passing it into legislation, which he would eventually sign into law.

Either way, Ysrael contends that it’s its bad for business. “I can understand the democratic party line stick it to, sock it to the tax payers more welfare, more GovGuam expenditures, regardless where it comes from, but for Republicans to have that attitude, and they had that attitude by keeping quiet.”

Meanwhile, don't expect the voices behind Bill 133 to remain silent, as Sanchez says come election time next year the organization will issue a report card on the candidates, including the democrats who put VIP Bill 133 silently to rest.

As for the head of the Democrats in the Legislature, Speaker Ben Pangelinan still maintains he did the right thing in voting the measure down and contends his track record speaks for itself that he is and always has been pro-business. Said the Speaker, “I think I have done more pro-business legislation in this body...I have a bill to clarify the Guam business license law, which the, on the matter of the [island’s Gross Receipts Tax] and all other matters, the Chamber supports my position on many, many bills more than other senators, because I've introduced more bills that deal with business because I understand how business works.”

While Speaker Pangelinan and his Democratic colleagues may introduce a number of pro-business bills during their term, their action on Bill 133 apparently won't be forgotten. Concluded Sanchez, “We're not going to forget what happened that night when nine senators got together and said we don't need to listen to the people so we're not going to.”



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