Minimum wage legislation has similar ring to it - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Minimum wage legislation has similar ring to it

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - It was on Good Friday when legislation was introduced that would raise the minimum wage while lowering business privilege taxes. If it sounds familiar, it's because the two ideas were initially proposed in two separate measures proffered by Vice Speaker BJ Cruz and the Republican minority.

Senator Michael San Nicolas says his Bill 322 is the perfect compromise in moving forward with proposals that will benefit the people of Guam. "The Bill 322 that we introduced is a very simple marrying of the proposal of Vice Speaker BJ Cruz and what the governor views as something he can sign into law," he said.

Vice Speaker BJ Cruz introduced Bill 316 last week that would raise the minimum wage to $0.95 per year for the next three years. The Republicans meanwhile announced days later they would be introducing a bill that would lower the Gross Receipt Tax by 5% as a way to find a balanced approach in raising wages. Governor Calvo stated if both measures landed on his desk simultaneously, he would sign both into law.

"The compromise was a very fair compromise and I wanted to make sure we cease the moment I think that when it comes to getting this work done for our people and moving these kind of things forwards, we need to be as expeditious as possible the sands of politics can shift very quickly so when we have a tentative agreement that's going to bring both sides together we need to move fast on it because those things can change," he said.

San Nicolas consulted with Vice Speaker Cruz who he says is in support of the measure. The freshman senator says because it was late in the day, he didn't get a chance to call Senator Chris Duenas, who is the main author behind the GOP proposal. On Friday, Senator Duenas told KUAM it was unfortunate that San Nicolas decided to steal his idea.

"Senator Duenas, needs to remember we work for the people and they're the ones we ultimately do our jobs for and it's not about who's idea is it our people never respond favorably to those kind of things," he noted.

Today, the Republican minority officially introduced their bill and thanked their Democrat colleague for embracing the tax cut proposal to balance the minimum wage. "I think the biggest thing I'll have to say about that is I look forward to him leading the charge on the Democrat side to really realize sound tax policy when it comes to increasing wage," he said.

Duenas however says San Nicolas' bill is missing a crucial component to make the proposal whole. "That's why the republicans didn't rush to grab headlines in regards to this issue we were introducing a very comprehensive bill and you'll see in our bill there is a provision with regard to the Dave Santos amendment and graduated increases to ensure that the small businesses who would most highly affected by this policy have relief," he said.

In order to ensure mom and pop stores don't go out of business, the GOP proposal will also raise the threshold of gross revenue exempted from business privilege taxes from its current level of $40,000 in annual revenue to $50,000 when the first wage increment goes into effect.

And while Duenas wouldn't say whether he supported Bill 322, he does support the concept of making sure a balanced approach is taken.

"And I think the best thing to do is for the committees to hold the public hearings, have the discussion and see which proposal at the end the day presents the proper approach in the final analysis," he said.

San Nicolas meanwhile says it's the prerogative of either Cruz or Duenas to withdrawal their bills, but says marrying the ideas, as he has done, will provide a more, balanced clean approach instead of having separate bills and separate hearings that he says may become a "messy situation." 

We should note Committee on Rules chairman Senator Rory Respicio returned Bill 322 back to Senator San Nicolas as he states it does not meet the requirements of standing rules. Respicio says Bill 322 contains two separate provisions, non-germane to each other. In order for the components to legislatively move forward, the provisions of the measures would have to be introduced as two separate bills. San Nicolas tells KUAM he still believes his bill was a proper compromise despite Respicio "rejecting it". Senator Duenas meanwhile invites San Nicolas as the first co-sponsor after the Republican minority on his measure. The public hearing for BJ Cruz's minimum wage bill is still set for Wednesday at 530pm at the Guam Legislature.
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