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Minimum wage measure put on session agenda

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - After nearly two months since a series of public hearings were held on the much discussed measure, lawmakers will finally get a chance to debate it on the floor as Bill 316 to raise the minimum wage was added to session agenda.

After hours of oral testimony and pages of written comment, Vice Speaker BJ Cruz will finally get to discuss his Bill 316 on session floor next week. "I'm elated, I'm ecstatic, I'm really happy for the workers that are having to work at minimum wage and hopefully we can raise the wages they are receiving," he said.

The measure would raise the minimum wage by $0.95 over the next three years capped at $10.10. Three public hearings were held on the measure most of which drew wide opposition including its biggest critic, the Guam Chamber of Commerce. "My response is well we've had the committee report open for the last two months now," he shared, "there's 10 hours of testimony in opposition to it but there isn't one minute one suggestion on how to be able to improve it it's just no and that cannot be possible."

The Chamber in fact just had a panel discussion on "the truth of the minimum wage" where Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares spoke on how she expects employers will be forced to cut hours and layoff workers. Cruz said, "We have taken care of all the GovGuam employees, we have increased their wages we've increased the police department and all the public safety people - 40% the mayors got a $30,000 increase this last year I'm surprised Melissa (Savares) was on was on that panel because she got $30,000 and seemingly opposed people getting $1,900."

GHRA president Mary Rhodes also spoke on that panel asking to hold off on the measure until an independent economic impact study is completed. "I don't know what they're talking about needing an independent economic assessment," she said. "Those are the four recognized economists on this island who have all spoken in favor of it 0434 unless they're going to bring somebody from off island to do the study, the four on island who are recognized and are accredited with degrees have all spoken in favor of it, what more do they need?"

Cruz is referring to University of Guam professor of economics Dr. Roseanne Jones, associate professor of economics and finance Dr. Maria Claret Mapalad-Ruane, Bank of Guam senior vice president Joseph Bradley and DOL chief economist Gary Hiles - all of whom spoke at the Guam Women's Chamber of Commerce forum on wage and compensation. The Guam Chamber however has questioned the data from those very economists and their lack of presence at the public hearing.

Meanwhile the public testimony received on Bill 316 along with the committee digest was recently published online. 
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