By Eric Rosario
The seven Republican senators of the Guam Legislature on January 7 this year made a public and written promise to the people of Guam not to advocate for the raising of taxes.
The promise, with the headline "REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP COMMITMENT: NO NEW TAXES," reads "Republican senators agreed that, while each may pursue different policy initiatives throughout the term, one thing is clear: increasing financial burdens on taxpayers would raise the cost-of-living and further deteriorate the quality of life for all. It is about dollars and cents, and no new taxes make a lot of sense."
Not even six months since making this written commitment, four Republican senators have broken that promise, signing on to Democrat Sen. Sabina Perez's Bill No. 104 that will raise the tax on cigarettes.
They are Telo Taitague, Joanne Brown, Chris Duenas, and Tony Ada...
...all former cabinet members of the Calvo administration. MidPac, a company owned by the Calvo family, is a cigarette distributor business and the only cigarette wholesaler on Guam to have expressed support for the bill.
The bill's main function is to stop the ongoing procurement of a private company to properly assess and collect cigarette taxes. The current mandate to outsource this function from the Department of Revenue and Taxation occurred after two audits confirmed at least two cigarette distribution companies skated on paying tens of millions of dollars in taxes. In the final year of the Calvo administration, it was revealed that DRT was in negotiation with MidPac to lower the company's outstanding tax liability.
The additional levy, which will be on top of the $4.00 tax per pack of cigarettes already in place, will be used to hire more people at the Department of Revenue and Taxation. According to Ms. Perez, these employees will be able to assess and collect the cigarette taxes at a lower cost than a private company despite DRT's decades-long failure to collect these taxes.
The Legislature will be voting on this bill at session Friday afternoon.