Guam Legislature Passes Bill To Repeal Pay Raises

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

If signed by governor, salaries of officials to be reduced

By Shawn Raymundo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 29, 2016) – In a 9-5 vote, lawmakers Friday passed a bill to repeal the retroactive pay raises that Guam’s appointed and elected leaders received in November 2014.

If enacted, Bill 204-33 would reduce the salaries of the attorney general, governor, lieutenant governor, senators and Cabinet appointees, as well as mayors and vice mayors.

Speaker Judith Won Pat called for session Friday morning after the legislative Committee on Rules approved a resolution to reconsider another vote on Bill 204, which failed last November in an 8-7 decision.

Sens. Rory Respicio, D-Agana Heights, and James Espaldon, R-Tamuning, voted against the measure in November 2015, but changed their votes to "yeas" on Friday. Sen. Tina Muña Barnes, who voted against the measure last year, was absent.

Respicio, who chairs the Committee on Rules, said the committee wanted to bring the bill back for a revote in light of the government’s current "cash crunch," which the Department of Administration confirmed last week.

The cash crunch, partially brought on by a recent $13 million payment for cost-of-living allowances to retirees, has made it difficult for the government to set aside money for tax-refund payments.

The Department of Administration also has said the government owes an estimated $25.2 million in late vendor payments.

Acknowledging he had previously stood by the pay raises and Gov. Eddie Calvo’s stance that the government’s finances were in order, Espaldon said he couldn’t consciously support the raises while government agencies struggle to pay vendors.

"I guess what it comes down to, because of the numbers put out by the administration right now, for me it always comes back to the very basic question of: What’s really in the best interest of our people and our government?" he said. "Knowing full well that we have a lot of outstanding payables that need to be made, and they affect families, they affect businesses on this island, maybe we should revisit the issue. I thought the most responsible thing to do was roll (salaries) back."

Sen. Mike San Nicolas, the bill’s author, has remained determined to repeal Public Law 32-208, the statute that authorized the raises in November 2014. Mayors and vice mayors got pay increases in 2014 — separate from the public law — but Bill 204 would rescind those raises.

Under the law, senators’ salaries increased from about $61,000 to $85,000 while Gov. Eddie Calvo’s annual income jumped from $90,000 to $130,00. While the bill reduces all the officials’ salaries to income levels prior to Public Law 208, senators’ salaries are to reduce to roughly $55,000.

"When we first started doing this, we barely had any votes to even begin this process," San Nicolas said. "Now we’ve come to this point where we’ve gone from barely having any votes to have just one vote shy of a veto-proof bill. It’s a been quite a journey, but it’s been the right path and I’m grateful my colleagues are ... coming along to support this progress."

The bill will be sent to Adelup for Calvo to either sign or veto. A 10-vote minimum is needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

"The financial realities have reached a point where I don’t think anybody can turn a blind eye to reality," San Nicolas said. "I’m confident the governor will also come to terms with how the issue has been shifting and will come around to signing the bill. If he doesn’t, I’m confident that at least one of our colleagues, one more colleague, will give us the override necessary, if it comes to that."

Calvo has staunchly opposed any repeal of the law, which his office wrote prior to sending it down to the Legislature and calling a special session for lawmakers to consider the raises in November 2014. The governor has defended the raises, stating the government’s finances are in much better shape than they were when he first took office in 2011.

Adelup officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

HOW THEY VOTED

Yes

No

Absent

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