Group Reminds Voters Which Guam Senators Supported Raises For Lawmakers

Guamanians for Fair Government puts up billboards targetting eight Senators

By Shawn Raymundo 

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 25, 2016) – The Guamanians for Fair Government, a local group that has advocated for a repeal of the November 2014 law that gave appointed and elected officials retroactive pay raises, have launched a campaign against eight senators who are currently seeking re-election next month.

Northern residents may have seen a couple of billboards go up, depicting the faces of Democratic Sens. Tina Muna Barnes, Rory Respicio and Dennis Rodriguez Jr., as well as Republican Sens. Tony Ada, Frank Blas Jr., James Espaldon, Brant McCreadie and Tommy Morrison.

Above the caricatures of the senators’ faces is the word “Mist8ke.”

Andri Baynum, the group’s chairman, said the billboards aren’t meant to convince people to vote those senators out of office on Nov. 8, but rather to remind Guam’s registered voters which lawmakers opposed legislation to rescind the raises.

“We’re not telling people who to vote for, but what we are saying is these people on the billboard have chosen time and time again … to defy the voice of the people and have kept the raises,” Baynum said.

McCreadie said he respects the public’s right to exercise free speech. He added that, unlike other politicians, he’ll welcome criticism and respect people’s right to express their opinions of support or opposition.

“As a minority senator with the most bills introduced, passed and signed into law, I continue to focus on actual work and serve everyone, regardless of their opposing views,” McCreadie said. “Developing thick skin is necessary in public 

When Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio enacted Public Law 32-208, senators’ salaries jumped from nearly $61,000 to $85,000. Gov. Eddie Calvo and Tenorio’s salaries increased to $130,000 and $110,000 respectively.

In the past two years, lawmakers, including Sen. Mike San Nicolas, D-Dededo, Frank Aguon Jr., D-Yona and McCreadie have introduced legislation meant to either repeal the statute in its entirety or to only roll back senators’ salaries.

The most recent was last October, when San Nicolas introduced Bill 204-33 and McCreadie introduced Bill 201-33. McCreadie’s bill would have reduced senators’ wages to about $55,000, which is what lawmakers made before a salary bump at the beginning of fiscal 2013.

Bill 204 proposed to repeal Public Law 208 as well as reduce the pay of mayors and vice mayors, who had received raises earlier in 2014. The bill also reduced senator pay to about $55,000.

Lawmakers voted 6-9 against McCreadie’s bill. Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, Sens. Aguon, Espaldon, Respicio, San Nicolas and McCreadie supported the bill. Bill 204 was narrowly defeated last year, in a 7-8 vote. Sens. Tony Ada, Blas, Espaldon, Morrison, Barnes, Rodriguez, McCreadie and Respicio opposed Bill 204.

But this past January, after the Department of Administration notified lawmakers of the government’s cash crunch, Respicio called on his colleagues to reconsider Bill 204. During the revote, Respicio and Espaldon voted in favor of the bill, giving it enough votes to pass, but not enough to overcome a gubernatorial veto, which requires at least 10 votes.

Sens. Underwood and San Nicolas have each called for an override attempt, but both times failed to receive 10 supporting votes.

Espaldon on Tuesday said he found the billboard to be amusing and said it doesn’t bother him, noting that the group is entitled to post such a billboard. However, he added, the group should be reminded of his support for Bill 204.

“If they don’t want to inform themselves, there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me, but they are mistaken. If they’re basing on the previous news, then they need to get caught up.”

Baynum said Respicio and Espaldon were included in the Mist8ke billboard because they had opportunities within the first year to vote for the repeal efforts rather than changing their vote during an election year.

“There were three opportunities when the issue was very fresh … each time they said ‘no,’” Baynum said, adding: “It’s only now they believe it’s not politically viable for their futures to keep their raises.”

As of press time, the remaining six senators hadn't responded to requests for comment.

Since the enactment of the public law that raised the salaries of the attorney general, governor, lieutenant governor, senators and cabinet appointees, the Guamanians for Fair Government has called on lawmakers to repeal the statute.

Members, however, had remained fairly silent throughout the election year, leaving efforts to repeal the law to local activist Ken Leon-Guerrero and his Citizens for Public Accountability group.

Leon-Guerrero had worked this past year to get his group’s voter initiative to repeal the law on the ballot in the upcoming General Election. After dealing with a couple of deaths in the family over the summer, Leon-Guerrero missed the deadline to place the initiative on the ballot.

With the General Election just under two weeks away, the Fair Government group has been reinvigorated and is campaigning against the pay raise law. Baynum said more billboards will be posted throughout the island later this week and there’s also a plan to hold a wave rally in the coming weeks.

“This is just a continuation of our education campaign to keep the community informed,” Baynum said.

Pacific Daily News
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