Guam Legislature Votes To Repeal Raises For Elected Leaders

Lawmakers also vote to increase smoking age from 18 to 21

By Shawn Raymundo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 9, 2017) – Lawmakers Thursday afternoon voted to repeal the controversial pay raises Guam’s elected leaders gave themselves in November 2014. The governor, lieutenant governor and lawmakers will take a pay cut 10 days after the bill becomes law.

Bill 4-34 passed by a 10-5 vote, with Sens. Tom Ada, D-Tamuning; Wil Castro, R-Barrigada; Fernando Esteves, R-Yona; Tommy Morrison, R-Umatac; and Louise Muna, R-Yigo, voting against it.

The Legislature also unanimously passed a bill to increase the legal age to purchase and consume tobacco products, from 18 to 21. The change would take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

“Today brought us one step closer to saving lives, saving money, and protecting our children from the deadly addiction of tobacco,” said Speaker Benjamin Cruz, who wrote Bill 9-34, entitled the “Youth Protection Act of 2017.”

Lawmakers last year also approved a bill by Cruz to increase the tobacco age, but Gov. Eddie Calvo successfully vetoed it, stating it took away an adult’s responsibility.

Raises repealed

Pending action by Calvo, the positions of the governor, lieutenant governor and senators would be removed from the Competitive Wage Act, which means the raises they received under Public Law 32-208 would be rescinded.

The measure, which Sen. Frank Aguon Jr., D-Yona, introduced, reduces Calvo and Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio’s salaries from $130,000 and $110,000, respectively,  to $90,000 and $85,000. Senators, who now make $85,000, would go back to making roughly $55,000, except for the legislative speaker, who would make $61,000.

With two-thirds of the legislative body in favor of the repeal measure, it’s essentially safe from a gubernatorial veto.

As of press time, the governor's office couldn’t be reached for comment.

Sen. Aguon and Sen. Mike San Nicolas, D-Dededo, since 2014 have introduced several failed bills to repeal, or partially repeal the law that gave raises to elected officials. One of San Nicolas’ bills last year passed the Legislature in a 9-5 vote, but Calvo vetoed it.

Health insurance

Lawmakers on Thursday narrowly approved a bill that would require the government to provide health insurance coverage to its employees and retirees that is the most affordable to taxpayers. The vote on bill 3-34, also written by Cruz, was 8-7. If enacted, it would require the government’s health insurance negotiating team to submit to the governor for approval only the most affordable health plan.

Each year, Lt. Gov. Tenorio is presented with two health plan options — an exclusive option, in which one company is awarded the contract, and a non-exclusive plan that allows employees and retirees to choose from several insurance providers.

Over the last four fiscal years, the exclusive option would have saved taxpayers about $54 million, but Tenorio instead has approved the costlier non-exclusive contract. Tenorio makes the decision because Calvo's family owns the government's largest insurance provider, which covers about 90 percent of employees and retirees.

Taxpayers this fiscal year would have saved $20 million, compared to last year, if Tenorio had approved the exclusive plan offered by TakeCare, according to the negotiating team.

Under Bill 3, the negotiating team can only submit the “single most economic and beneficial healthcare insurance proposal plan” to the governor’s office, prohibiting the team from forwarding both exclusive and non-exclusive options.

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2017 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

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