Guam Senator Vows To Continue Trying To Repeal Pay Raises

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San Nicolas to reintroduce failed bill in next legislative session

By Shawn Raymundo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 11, 2014) – During the next Legislative term, Sen. Michael San Nicolas, D-Dededo, will reintroduce a bill to repeal a recently enacted law that gives elected and appointed officials pay raises.

Bill 435-32 was aimed at repealing Public Law 32-208, which raised the annual salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet members and senators based on recommendations from the Competitive Wage Act of 2014. In addition to their raises, the officials will receive retroactive payment dating back to January.

San Nicolas introduced the proposed legislation Tuesday.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, D-Piti, and San Nicolas were the only lawmakers in favor of the bill. The nine remaining senators voted against it.

Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan as well as Sens. Tina Muña Barnes, D-Mangilao, and Mike Limtiaco, R-Tamuning, were absent from Tuesday night's session.

"We always ask 'where are we going to find the money?' But yet we can find it when we're talking about raises and pay being retroactive?" San Nicolas asked Tuesday, referring to sessions held in the past over funding issues with various agencies.

San Nicolas said, although his bill had minimal support at the end of this term, he would like to hear input from the new senators who will be part of the upcoming Legislature.

The four new senators and other incumbent lawmakers will be sworn in next month.

"I think it will be good for us to get the perspective of the newly elected senators and weigh in on it," he said.

Unlike the pay raise bill, which senators passed on Nov. 21 in a 10-1 vote, San Nicolas said he will make sure his bill in the 33rd Legislature goes through the proper procedure of introduction, public hearing and then deliberation on the floor.

"We're definitely going to put that through the full course," San Nicolas said.

San Nicolas slammed lawmakers Tuesday night for not holding a public hearing prior to passing last month's bill. He wanted his bill to receive the same treatment.

Implementation

Under the new law that Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio enacted late last month, senators received a nearly 40-percent raise, as they will soon be taking home an annual salary of $85,000. The governor and lieutenant governor now have their salaries set at $130,000 and $110,000 respectively.

Gov. Eddie Calvo told members of the media yesterday he would like to see the retroactive payment and paychecks reflecting the raise go out before Christmas.

He said, however, it all depends on when GovGuam's fiscal team completes its financial review of the raises.

"I'm waiting for my fiscal team; I told them just get it calculated," Calvo said. "And I told them I'd like to do it before Christmas."

The fiscal team includes the Department of Administration and Bureau of Budget and Management Research.

Calvo added that he, along with his appointed officials, deserve a raise and added that his Cabinet members were cheated earlier this year when lawmakers excluded themselves and the appointed officials from the Wage Act raises.

The Wage Act, submitted to senators in January, included recommended pay raises to government of Guam employees.

"I think my people deserve a raise," Calvo said, adding, "I believe I do deserve a raise."

Calvo said he plans to use the raise to help pay for his kids' college education and would also contribute to various charities.

Calvo also said he instructed Tenorio, who was acting governor, to call the Legislature into special session last month because senators weren't moving forward with legislation to get Cabinet members their raises.

"I've been preaching on this since January, since (senators) first tinkered around with it. I've always been wanting to get this thing on the floor," Calvo said. "Obviously no one's moving on it so I decided moving on it."

Public reaction

On Tuesday, San Nicolas cited several issues around the island that should be addressed before the elected officials and Cabinet members receive raises. He pointed out that the transit system is underfunded, and there are many roads in need of repairs.

Island resident Pauline Gumataotao, who works as a clerk in Piti, agreed with San Nicolas that elected officials shouldn't be getting pay raises while the island faces issues with its infrastructure.

"There's a lot of stuff that needs to be fixed up," she said, such as "buildings that are eyesores and roads that need to be fixed."

She said only Cabinet members who can prove to the public that they have been working hard to make improvements to the island deserve a pay increase.

Resident Jared Aguon, a 24-year-old delivery driver for Luen Fung Enterprises, a food supply company, doesn't agree with the raises either because he said they already earn enough money.

"I don't like it," he said. "I don't think they need the pay raises. The wealthy is already wealthy."

Even with the pay raises, Calvo said GovGuam is in position to take care of the needs of the island. He added that during his first term in Adelup, he has been able to improve government agencies such as Guam Memorial Hospital and the Guam Police Department.

"This doesn't mean we neglect the goals of those agencies," Calvo said.

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