Youth Congress Votes To Halt GovGuam Pay Raises

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Increases for elected officials rejected by community

By Maria Hernandez

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 29, 2014) – Guam's youth have joined the debate on whether the island's elected officials and other government workers should receive pay raises.

The Guam Youth Congress passed legislation Saturday to stop salary increases for elected officials and Cabinet members by repealing a recently passed law that approves the pay raises.

In a release from the Youth Congress, Vice Speaker Leonardo Lujan Orsini said he introduced the bill "so that our island's youth can have a say on the matter and to right a wrong committed by our island leaders."

The congress represents Guam youth and functions as a legislative body with the power to establish committees and pass resolutions and bills. Bills passed by the congress are forwarded to the Rules Committee of the Guam Legislature. The congress consists of 33 representatives, ages 14 to 24. The body convenes for session every three weeks.

[PIR editor’s note: PDN reported that ‘During a public hearing at the Legislature yesterday afternoon, about two dozen residents spoke out against the pay raises lawmakers approved for appointed and elected officials late last month. ... Some said the money would be better spent on other community priorities, such as schools and police.’]

Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio called a special session last month at the Guam Legislature so senators could vote on a bill that adjusts the salaries of the attorney general, governor, lieutenant governor, senators and Cabinet members to the scale recommended in the Competitive Wage Act of 2014.

The Wage Act pay scales were adjusted from a 2010 compensation study conducted by the consulting firm, Hay Group.

Under the Wage Act, senators would earn an annual salary of $85,000 while Gov. Eddie Calvo's salary increases to $130,000.

In a 10-1 vote, lawmakers passed the bill, sending it to Tenorio, then acting governor, for his signature. In addition to the salary increases, the elected and appointed leaders would receive a retroactive payment dating back to January, which was when the Wage Act was submitted to the senators for implementation.

Youth Congress passed Bill 2-30 to repeal the law, Public Law 32-208, in a 23-1 vote on Saturday.

Representative D'Marco Quinene, of Merizo, was the only member in opposition of the bill, the release states.

"I do not agree with the amount they gave themselves, but I do agree that they deserve a minimal increase in their wages," Quinene said.

In response to Quinene, Orsini said that while some feel elected officials deserve the raise, "the manner in which they did so is grossly undermining the relationships of citizens and their government."

Earlier this month, Sen. Mike San Nicolas, D-Dededo, introduced a bill that would have repealed the raises, but the bill failed in a 2-9 decision with San Nicolas and Cruz as the only supporters, news files state.

Sen. Frank Aguon Jr., D-Yona, introduced a bill last week to repeal the senators' raises while keeping the other officials' salaries attached to the Wage Act. The hearing for Aguon's bill will be held today, according to news files.

In a video address sent out earlier this month from the governor's office, Gov. Calvo defended the pay raises by pointing out several improvements his administration has made to the island's finances in the last four years.

"My conscience is clear that the men and women of the Cabinet and my staff earned the pay they will begin to get today," Calvo said in the address. "Their leadership and hard work -- together with the rest of our GovGuam family -- got us to where we are today."

Other legislation

In addition to repealing pay raises, the Youth Congress also passed a bill that would require public school student to attend school from age 5 to 18. The law currently requires students to attend school from age 5 to 16.

"General education is important. The island needs more educated people, and the drop-out age increase is just one of the ways to encourage our youth to continue their education," Representative Quinene wrote in the bill.

The bill passed with a 21-3 vote.

The Youth Congress also passed a bill to fund its organization, the release states.

Bill 4-30, authored by Speaker Lawrence Aclaro, allocates no less than 5 percent of the Guam Legislature's budget for the operations of the Youth Congress, which currently does not have a budget, the release states.

The bill passed in a 20-4 vote.

"These bills bring to light what is necessary for our island; prioritizing our youth. We don't know if these bills will make it to the floor of the Guam Legislature, let alone pass, but it's definitely a start," Aclaro said.

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