GUAM LAWMAKERS CUT EMPLOYEES’ PAY 10 PERCENT

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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 12) - Employees at the Guam Legislature's central office and the speaker's office took an across-the-board 10 percent pay cut yesterday because of the government's cash problems, and Speaker Mark Forbes said his immediate goal is to cut at least 12 jobs at the Legislature's central office as well.

The Legislature's Office of Finance and Budget followed suit, as did Republican Senator Jesse Lujan's office.

Vice Speaker Eddie Calvo, who runs OFB, the Legislature's most expensive office in terms of salaries -- US$288,471 -- announced a 10 percent pay cut for the OFB staff. "The allotments aren't coming in, and with that we need to make some changes," Calvo said.

Calvo said he did not cut the salaries of the staff at his legislative office -- US$177,239 -- because he recently reduced the number of employees from seven to five.

"We must live within our means," Lujan said in a written statement.

Lujan, whose office salaries were second highest in the Legislature, at US$272,705 per year, now moves into third place behind Senator Tony Unpingco's staff after the 10 percent cut.

Forbes said he used his authority as speaker and as chairman of the Legislature's Executive Committee to cut the salaries of employees at central operations and his office.

It will be up to other senators to decide whether to do the same, he said, although the budgets for each legislative office likely will be cut across-the-board at the end of the month. The next quarter of the fiscal year begins then, which Forbes said is a "clean opportunity" to adjust legislative spending.

When asked whether his salary is being cut as well, Forbes said lawmakers can't reduce their salary without changing the law because the law defines the compensation for lawmakers.

"I'd like to take the same cut I'm giving other people," he said.

Forbes said the pay cuts announced yesterday are retroactive to March 5, which is the beginning of the current pay period.

The Pacific Daily News recently examined the Legislature's staffing pattern and found that lawmakers employ eight full-time maintenance workers -- one worker for every two senators. The maintenance workers are to be collectively paid US$175,635 a year, not including benefits.

Forbes said the Legislature needs that many maintenance workers because for many years it has assumed the responsibility of cleaning and maintaining the Plaza de España in Hagåtña, as well as other park areas that are part of the Guam Capital District. Other government agencies have not been up to the task of keeping the area clean, he said.

They also provide maintenance services for senators, he said.

The Legislature's standard lease agreement, which is used by all senators and is also for lease of the Legislature's main building, makes senators, not their landlords, responsible for maintenance and repairs.

The Legislature's landlords are responsible for ensuring that the air conditioning works and that the structures and common areas are in reasonably good condition, the standard agreement states, but senators are responsible for repairs. Their landlords can put them on notice to make repairs if necessary, the agreement states.

In contrast, the Mayor's Council of Guam, which leases commercial office space in Hagåtña, receives maintenance from its landlord.

Public Auditor Doris Brooks, who leases office space in the same building as Senators David Shimizu and Frank Blas Jr., also receives maintenance service as part of her lease.

The speaker said maintenance workers are one possible area to cut, although the extent of additional cuts would be determined by how much cash the administration says will be made available.

Cuts are necessary, Forbes said, because the Legislature has not been given about US$1.5 million of the cash it has been budgeted for the current fiscal year and it is unclear whether the Legislature will see any of that cash or if the cash shortage will grow.

"We're right now on pace to be 50 percent (short)," said Calvo, whose budget committee on Wednesday will continue a round-table discussion with the admission on the government's financial crisis. Calvo said lawmakers need to know how much cash is being collected, how much the government is actually spending and what the administration wants to do to make up the difference.

The Legislature has spent most of its cash reserves -- money carried over from unspent office budgets in prior years -- Forbes said, and personnel cuts need to be made immediately to reduce the chance of more extreme cuts later in the year.

"The cash has been spent," Forbes said. "Functionally, there are no carryovers. We used it to stay alive."

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