By: Maegan Jones
Although small in size, the island of Guam holds major importance to the United States of America. The Chamorro are the indigenous people of Guam, and the Northern Marianas Islands, who have inhabited the lands for thousands of years. Guam first became a U.S. territory in 1898 after the Spanish-American war when Spain ceded the country after losing a devastating battle. The territory was considered a relatively peaceful place until 1941, when the island was captured by Japan shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Three years later, towards the end of 1944, the island was reclaimed by U.S. soldiers during the Battle of Guam. On July 21st of every year, the people of Guam celebrate Liberation Day to commemorate the territory’s freedom from Japan.
During the 1950’s, the Guam Organic Act was passed. This granted the people of Guam birthright U.S. citizenships. The island houses several U.S. Airforce and Naval bases. The Guam Army National Guard is an offshoot of the U.S. Army branch. Nuclear weapons such as high tech submarines and missiles are protected inside the territory. In fact, military bases occupy 29 percent of the island. Guam’s involvement in the Vietnam War was crucial for the United States, since the land served as a base for B-52 bombers on intense missions. Later on, Guam was a point of evacuation for several Vietnamese refugees. Nevertheless, the livelihood of Guam is constantly threatened by other countries like North Korea, due to rising political tensions.
Aside from the armed forces, tourism and agriculture are other industries that support the island. The official languages of Guam is English and Chamorro, individuals born in Guam hold a U.S. citizenship. Nevertheless, those on the island do not pay federal taxes to the U.S. government and cannot vote in national elections since the island is not an official state.
The people of Guam elect their own senators, governors and mayors. The residents of the territory pay taxes directly to Guam’s government and do not file with the IRS. This being said, the tax money taken from citizens stay on the island.
Recently, Governor of Guam, Eddie Calvo vetoed “Bill 145” that would have increased real estate taxes on the island. Calvo’s decision was heavily criticized by the Guamanian lower class since the bill’s passing would have been a basis to fund affordable housing. The bill, proposed by Senator Telena Nelson, would have Guam’s government collect an $11.50 fee for each $1,000 transaction of real estate. Other Guam officials like Senator Mike San Nicolas defended Gov. Calvo’s decision noting that the government should crack down on collecting sales tax instead. “There is a lot of revenue out there that we could collect if we just go out and collect the taxes. There’s over $100 million dollars in gross receipts taxes also,” Calvo stated. “So we don’t need to raise taxes, we need to collect what is outstanding.”
There are several conversations about the future of Guam. Right now, Guam’s economy is supported by a strong agriculture system and military bases. The island does receive some federal funding; however, President Donald Trump has proposed a tax cut to U.S. territories that would cut at least 3 million dollars in funding over the next year for Guam.
As of now, Guamanian people are voicing concern about the cost of life on the island. With decreasing aid from the federal government, the future for Guam seems uncertain. Yes, Guam holds major importance when it comes to the U.S. Armed Forces; however, the actual people of Guam tend to go ignored by the federal government.