The long awaited public hearing the long and protracted controversy of salary increases for elected and appointed cabinet officials has finally come.
Speaker Judith Won Pat made the call for public hearing in relation to Bills 201 and 202 filed by Senator Brant McCreadie, October 30.
In her October 30 letter to Senator Mike San Nicolas, the Speaker called for Senator Mike Nicolas to take the lead and introduce a bill that would repeal pay raises for all elected officials and political appointees. The Speaker believes that “Bills 201 and 202, including any measures introduced on this matter, should have public hearing and given the opportunity to be deliberated.”
“While I agree with the intent of these measures and the abiding public, Guam law permits me to waive a Bill’s Public Hearing requirement only when that Bill is identical to a measure which has already had a Public Hearing or when such a measure considers an emergency concerning the public health and safety (2 GCA Section 2103), Won Pat states.
The speaker clearly expressed in her letter that she supports legislation that will repeal the pay raises of elected and appointed officials.
It is recalled that as far back as year 2013, Sen. McCreadie co-authored with by former Sen. Michael Limtiaco Bill 30-32 to bring down the salary of senators to $55,307. This bill however was “withdrawn by the sponsors.”
On October 30, Sen. McCreadie introduced Bill 201-33 (COR) excluding the senators from the Competitive Wage Act of 2014 and to reduce their wages to $55,307.00 from the current $85,000.00 they get annually, which is according to Sen. McCreadie, is the same as what they received back in 2010.
In addition, Sen. McCreadie also introduced Bill 202-33 (COR) for Senators to repay to the Government of Guam the retroactive pay increase they received from January 15, 2014 to November 21, 2014.
San Nicolas’s Bill
San Nicolas’s latest Bill No. 204-33 (COR) on the other hand seeks to restore salaries of elected and appointed officials to levels before Public Law 27-05. This bill would revert the senators’ compensation to $55,307 and the Speaker’ to $60,837 per annum. Mayors’ salaries would become $46,062 and Vice Mayors’ shall be 42,264 per annum. It would also roll back the current salary rates of the Governor, Lt. Governor, and the politically appointed cabinet members to previous rates.
Sen. San Nicolas pointed out in his press release that his bill would save $2.5 million a year and $1 million in pensions for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Under the law, the Governor and the Lt. Governor would receive a lifetime pension which would be half of their salary.
San Nicolas’s Bill was co-authored by Speaker Won Pat, Vice Speaker BJ Cruz, and Senators Nerissa Underwood and Tom Ada.
Public Law 32-208
The infamous Public Law 32-208 was the result of passage of Bill No. 1 (8-S) was presented and signed by Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio in a special session before the members of the 32nd Guam Legislation last Nov. 21, 2014. Lt. Gov. Tenorio was the acting governor during at that. The bill was passed and became public law (PL 32-208) on the same day and less than 24 hours after it was presented on Nov. 21, 2014. No public hearing was conducted.
Sen. Limtiaco was the only member of the 32nd legislation who voted in the negative. Senators Mike San Nicolas, Tom Ada, and Dennis Rodriguez were absent. A source said that San Nicolas was absent because he was off-island for his child’s medical treatment.
The enactment of PL 32-208 under the wage act of 2014 increased the public official’s income of roughly 45% to 48% from the governor down to the other members of the cabinet.
Competitive Wage Act of 2014
A lot of controversies surround Bill No. 1 (8-S)/PL 32-208. While it was said the law would set salaries pursuant to the Competitive Wage Act of 2014, that in itself is questionable.
It is recalled that Guam Department of Administration sought the services of the Hay Group to study and come up with comprehensive pay plan. The Hay Group in the study came up with six pay plans: Executive Pay Plan, Nurses Pay Plan, Law Enforcement Officer Pay Plan, Educator Pay Plan, Attorney Pay Plan, General Pay Plan, and Rate of Pay Positions that will not have a salary grade or salary range. Included in the Rate of Pay Positions are: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Supreme Court-Chief Justice, Supreme Court-Associate Justice, Superior Court-Presiding Judge, Superior Court-Judge, Superior Court-Magistrate Judge, Attorney General, Public Auditor, Mayor, and Vice Mayor.
It is noted that the Hay Group did not include the Legislators in any of the pay plans.
However, when the Department of Administration came up with Competitive Wage Act of 2014 on January 15, 2014, the Senators were included in the Rate of Pay Positions. During the deliberations on the wage act, when asked for the basis of the inclusion of the senators and their pay, Benita Manglona (who was then the Director of Administration) would say to the legislators to trust (them) as they are professionals.
The inclusion of the legislators in the Competitive Wage Act of 2014 made the Guam senators the highest paid state senators in the country.
On January 24, 2014, San Nicolas introduced Bill No. 268-32 (COR) which would approve DOA’s implementation of the Guam’s Competitive Wage Act of 2014 and to require a performance-based standard for the directors and deputy directors of line agencies and I Maga’lahen and I Segundu Maga’lahen. San Nicolas’s Performance Pay Plan (PPP) would deposit the excess of the base salaries of I Maga’lahen, I Segundu Maga’lahen, the Attorney General, the Public Auditor, and the Directors, Deputy Directors or equivalent executive unclassified officers appointed by I Maga’lahen, shall be deposited into a Performance Pay Plan reserve fund and shall be paid to the parties in an annual basis only upon achievement of set criteria. Among the criteria are: decline in the unemployment rate, increased test scores of students of GDOE, decline in crime rate, among others. This bill was passed by the legislature but was vetoed by the Governor on February 13, 2014, citing among others that the legislature must not interfere with his organic duties to administer and manage the Executive branch. The Governor further added that the increases in their (his and the Lt. Governor’s) salaries will be diverted to educational and health accounts in government. The Governor also said that the legislature is welcome to examine his pay stub AS400 to verify.
Moves to repeal PL 32-208
Shortly after PL 32-208, Senator San Nicolas (who was absent when the controversial PL was passed) immediately introduced Bill 435-32 “to stop the salary increases for elected officials and cabinet members by repealing PL 32-208. This bill failed, however as the only ones who voted in favor of the bill was Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz and San Nicolas himself.
On December 16, 2014 Senator Frank Aguon, Jr. also attempted to introduce a bill (Bill No. 436-32) to remove the senators from the competitive wage act. This also failed, with Senators Aguon, Limtiaco, and San Nicolas voting in favor, 10 senators voted against, and Sen. McCreadie was absent.
On January 5, 2015 San Nicolas again made an attempt to repeal PL 32-208 by introducing Bill No. 4-33 to restore the salaries for elected officials and cabinet members to levels prior to the enactment of PL 32-208, and to require public hearing for bills proposing salary changes for elected officials, and to require that any change in salary of elected officials should take effect after a general election. Again, this failed.
In an interview by the press on early on January, Governor Calvo said that he will veto any bill to repeal raises. This is consistent to what he has stood from the beginning according to him that pertains to the issue of the bill’s passing. The Junction News Team tried to get the side of the administration whether the Governor still stands by this pronouncement but the Governor’s Communications Director did not reply to the email inquiry, nor did she return the call(s).
Opposed by Atty. General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson
In a letter sent to Senator Benjamin Cruz last June 2015, it can be recalled that Atty. Gen. Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson proposed the removal of her legal counsels and staffs out from the Competitive Wage Act Salary Bracket and roll back their pay to the previous compensation.
According to the letter, 50% of her staff has filed their resentment with the Department of Administration since the approval of the PL 32-208. It was also pointed out that the salaries of the legal counsels should be using a “step” system based on the years of service and or by the position of the individual attorneys’ level 1 through 5 and Chief Deputy Attorney General.
But Senator Benjamin Cruz told the press that “My initial reaction is I’m not happy that they’re having problems with (the Wage Act).” “I just wish they had spoken up and made themselves clear to the Hay Group when they were doing the study. That is their profession — to defend themselves.”
Cruz said he doesn’t support taking part of the PL 32-208 or the wage hike in anyway, adding that he’s worried about the precedent it will set.
“I’m not really in favor of starting to take apart the Competitive Wage Act, because once you do that, you’re back to chaos,” he added.
Guamanians believe that the annual salary increase should have been allotted for other government programs such as Guam Medical Center that was recently reported as struggling to pay retiree benefits.
Private individuals, public officials (who are against the PL 32-208), and community groups started a petition and on-line campaign to support San Nicolas’s Bill 4-33.
Mr. Andri Baynum, a member of “Guamanians for Fair Government” expressed his support of Bill 4-33 (LS). He stated his displeasure with some of the testimonies previously presented by some of the public officials.
Mr. Baynum also submitted both a petition with approximately 1,600 signatures and a document containing approximately 400 comments from the organization “Guamanians for Fair Government” in support of repealing Public Law 32-208. The list was included in the committee report submitted by Sen. San Nicolas to Judith Won Pat, Speaker of the 33rd Guam Legislature on Feb. 9, 2015.
On-line petition addressed to Governor Eddie Calvo coming from the Guam residents was also posted on a blog site (change.org) calling for public hearing to repeal the Public Law 32-208. This on-line petition however did not get much support, and was thus closed.
The pay hike adjustment under Public Law 32-208 is estimated to reach $4 Million that according to Sen. San Nicolas, could be used to renovate public schools and other government facilities where funding is needed.
The netizens mostly agreed with San Nicolas’s Bill 4-33 which according to them had a very good chance of getting through. But the bill got a 5-5 result in voting; 5 in favor of passing the Bill and 5 signed to just report it out.
Another petition letter addressed to the Guam Legislature was posted online at change.org calling for recall of all elected officials responsible for promoting, supporting and refusing to rescind the retro lump sum payment and Public Law 32-208 that raised the salaries of the Governor, Lt. Governor, Senators, Mayors, Vice Mayors, and politically appointed officials.
According to the petition, lawmakers routinely violate Guam law by refusing to hold public hearings on bills, even though Guam law is clear that the only time public hearings can be waived is under “emergency conditions.” Such conditions are defined as when there’s a danger to public health or safety.
The petition served as notice of intention to recall the following public officials:
• Gov. Eddie Calvo
• Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio
• Senator Rory Respicio
• Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr.
• Senator Judi Won Pat
• Senator Tina Muña Barnes,
• Senator Frank Aguon
• Senator Tom Ada
• Senator Tony Ada
• Senator Brant McCreadie
• Senator Tommy Morrison
Again this petition did not gather much support.
A recent survey conducted by the students of Simon Sanchez High School late September and Early October proved that Guamanians disapprove of the salary raise of public officials. The netizens said that they will have the upper-hand this time and that the fate of the legislators who supported and pushed for the PL 32-208 will be decided by the people.
The survey had 5 questions that aim to obtain statistical value of the public’s view about the salary increase after a year has passed. Participants to the survey are registered voters and are actively following the PL 32-208.
Out of the 1243 participants, 947 or 76% remained to disagree with the raise, 280 people or 23% said they are okay with it and only 1% or 16 participants were unsure which side of the issue they are in, but the numbers clearly state that the public is unhappy with the salary increase.
With Speaker Judith Won Pat’s showing support to repeal PL 32-208 for the first time, the netizens are hopeful that the legislators and the executive branch will listen to the voice of the people.
The public hearing is set on Tue, November 10, 5:30pm – 6:30pm at Guam Legislature’s Public Hearing Room./The Junction News team