Welcome to the website of the Vice Speaker for the 32nd Guam Legislature, Senator Benjamin J.F. Cruz.

On this site you can view all of the Senator's introduced Bills and Public Laws, as well as Press Releases from his office; you can also use this site as a starting point to view relevant pages about the island of Guam.

Thank you for visiting.

Cruz Asks AG to Look Into Potential Legal Loophole in Gov’t Insurance Program

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 3:46 pm

EXPLOIT MAY HAVE RESULTED IN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE FOR INSURER

(September 30, 2014 – Hagåtña) As the enrollment period for government of Guam employees and retirees comes to a close today, acting legal affairs chair Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz has called on the Attorney General (AG) to determine the statutory requirements in calculating the employee and government share toward insurance premiums. Cruz raises concerns that the law in question that was used to establish the government share for insurance premiums has consequently created an imbalanced state of medical rates for retirees.

Following concerns his office has recently heard over the Department of Administration’s (DOA) method of determining employee and employer contributions toward insurance premiums, Cruz said in a letter to AG Leonardo M. Rapadas that he found in his review of the medical insurance rates that the most expensive retiree plans had the lowest retiree contribution rates.

“Not only does this create an incentive for retirees to enroll in the most expensive retiree plans, but it also results in a disproportionately higher government subsidy for such expensive plans,” said Cruz. “Conversely, the least expensive retiree plans are under-subsidized and given a higher retiree contribution rate, thus making them less attractive to the subscriber.”

In applying Guam law (4GCA §4301), DOA chose a set of government contribution rates—set to be uniform within each class for all competing plans and not less than 50% of the lowest employee premium—for active employees and then applied the resulting employee rate—total active premium minus the government contribution—to the respective carriers’ retiree plans.

Since the law stipulates that the retiree contribution not exceed that of the active employee within the same class, the government subsidizes the difference between the two to create parity in contribution.

Cruz said that while DOA’s methods “may conform to the law,” he wants Rapadas to evaluate the manner in which retiree contribution rates were determined. “Specifically, does the language ‘contributes no more than an active employee who is otherwise in the same class’ also mean that the active employee contribution rate must only come from a plan offered by the same insurance carrier?”

Additionally Cruz has asked the AG to determine whether the law would have excluded other methods of determining retiree contribution rates. “Perhaps other methods at the discretion of DOA could have been applied that would have otherwise prevented this inequitable level of subsidy and pricing advantage given to certain carriers over others.”

“The law should be used to protect taxpayers and promote competition,” stated Cruz. “When a loophole is costing taxpayers millions and providing an advantage for one company, government officials should close that hole, not allow a select company to drive a Mack truck through it.”

For more information, call the Office of the Vice Speaker at 477-2520/1 or 687-7567.

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Cruz to Calvo: Prioritize Guardsmen in $9-M Hiring Cycle

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 3:43 pm

200+ GUARDSMEN STILL UNEMPLOYED

(September 18, 2014 – Hagåtña) As employment remains unrealized for hundreds of Guam Army National guard soldiers eight months after returning from their Afghanistan deployment, Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz has called on Adelup to prioritize the hiring of guardsmen in the filling of 165 vacancies funded by the FY 2015 budget act.

The legislature had presented Resolution No. 445-32 (COR) last Monday commending the volunteers of the Guam-CNMI Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). “While recognition of these efforts is a meaningful gesture, it must be matched with good works,” said Cruz in a letter to Governor Eddie B. Calvo sent earlier today.

In the letter Cruz noted that he has been informed that over a third of the 600-plus 1-294th Infantry Regiment soldiers who began returning from their deployment early in January, still struggle with finding jobs. “Surely those who guarded enemy combatants and protected civilians from the wrath of war can aid in first response or law enforcement here at home,” said Cruz.“Surely we can agree that those who fought under our flag should not return home only to struggle for a job.”

“Given your public avowal of your commitment to the men and women of the Guam National Guard, I respectfully ask that you prioritize these returning guardsmen when filling the new vacancies funded by the FY15 budget law,” said Cruz, in reference to the $9-million in funded vacancies provided by the FY 2015 budget act. Of the nearly 165 positions available within the executive branch, approximately 105 are dedicated to law enforcement agencies, and another 60 are for vacancies the governor deemed necessary to the operation of various executive branch agencies.

Cruz also lamented that the dire situation in which these guardsmen have found themselves is further exacerbated by unfamiliarity with the public workforce system and lack of advisement regarding eligibility for limited-term appointments (LTA).

“To that end, I propose that the executive branch and ESGR hold a job fair for guardsmen who have recently returned from deployments,” said Cruz. “Aside from informing attendants of all unfilled government jobs, the job fair would allow the Department of Administration (DOA) to guide guardsmen through the merit system, the proper application of preference points, and the selection criteria by which candidates are evaluated.”

Cruz added that agency managers could also be on site to interview applicants who meet the qualifications required by vacant authorized LTA positions.

The FY 2015 budget act (P.L. 32-181) appropriated $6,140,483 for funded vacancies within the Guam Police Department ($1,913,203), Department of Corrections ($2,920,729), Department of Youth Affairs ($395,813), and the Guam Fire Department ($910,738). Another appropriation of $3,077,971 has been set aside for vacancies within the Bureau of Business and Management Research, DOA, Department of Revenue and Taxation, Department of Labor, Department of Agriculture, Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, and/or Department of Parks and Recreation.

The referenced documents are attached. For more information, call the Office of the Vice Speaker at 477-2520 or 687-7567.

PR Prioritize Hiring Guardsmen 09182014

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Cruz to Calvo: Begin Performance-Based Budgeting

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 3:41 pm

PROPOSAL TO CONTROL GOV’T SPENDING BY 2016

(September 11, 2014 – Hagåtña) After more than two years since the Calvo administration touted a budgeting initiative to improve the delivery of government services, acting appropriations chair Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz has called on Adelup to finally implement this plan by selecting agencies that must submit performance-based budgets for fiscal year 2016.

In a letter transmitted yesterday afternoon, Cruz thanked the governor for signing the omnibus FY2015 budget bill but expressed grave concerns over growing public indebtedness highlighted in an audit released last April by the Office of Public Accountability and the subsequent effects it would have on government operations and services.

Cruz noted that since the governor issued Executive Order 2012-10 to create a “Performance Based Management System Executive Steering Committee”, none of the budget bills submitted since has followed guidelines of performance-based budgeting (PBB), which, as the vice speaker explains, aims to improve the efficiency of public spending by linking the funding of departments and agencies to the results they deliver.

“Perhaps it is time we revisit and complete this worthwhile initiative brought on by your administration,” said Cruz in the letter. “We can begin the process for FY 2016 with your selection of eight to 12 agencies and departments of varying sizes to submit performance-based budgets, with the ultimate goal of having all agencies and departments doing the same by FY 2018.”

The seven-person steering committee—comprised of the governor’s chief fiscal advisor, chief of staff, and communications director; and the heads of the Bureau of Budget and Management Research, Department of Administration, Bureau of Statistics and Plans, and Guam Economic Development Authority—has been primarily tasked with developing overall policy guidelines and recommendations for the successful implementation of PBB and management practices for Government of Guam entities.

Cruz is proposing that the participating agencies are to be selected based on size, e.g., departments with less than fifty (50) employees, with up to two hundred (200) employees, with more than two hundred (200) employees. PBB implementation for a large department such as the Guam Department of Education could be phased in over three years, beginning with central and ancillary services in the first year, middle and high school in the next, and elementary school last.

As early as 2008 when Governor Calvo was then chair of the Ways and Means Committee, the National Conference of State Legislators reported that Guam was moving toward PBB. In 2007, the FY 2008 budget act (P.L. 29-019), which Calvo voted to pass, added a new section that required heads from selected agencies and departments to develop and implement PBB by the end of FY 2008. In the same act, a similar mandate was added for the Guam Public School System to implement PBB for its central operations within the same timeframe.

PR PBB 09112014

The referenced documents are attached. For more information, please call the Office of the Vice Speaker at 477-2520/1 or 687-7567.

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