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Lawmakers called out over salary raises

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 by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - What makes you so special? During today's public hearing on a bill to repeal raises for senators that question was asked. Lawmakers along with the island's two highest elected leaders came under fire after approving raises for themselves earlier this month.

Bill 436 is a simple bill - it would repeal the raises senators approved for themselves in November.  Specifically Bill 1-8-s now public law 32-208 gave raises to your senators, the governor, lieutenant governor and members of their cabinet. But raises weren't the only thing they received. They also got retroactive pay back to January when all other GovGuam employees got their hay pay raises.  Former senator Bob Klitzkie who has long opposed raises for lawmakers commended senators for acting with "alacrity", which means quick and cheerful readiness to do something. Senators he said cut through red tape such as holding a public hearing on Bill 18-s and acted with inafamaolek. It took them only 28 days from introduction to passage to get their raises. He also commended them for passing the bill with such good timing.

Klitzkie said, "[The] general election was on 4 November, Bill 1-8-S passes on November 21. That's 22 days later query what if you passed the bill with your salary increases on October 12th that is 22 days before the election no alacrity there."

Students from the University of Guam also testified on Bill 436. Nino Garcia testified on behalf of his friend who wished to remain anonymous. Both are members of the Guamanians for fair government movement. "I'm not here to say that our government does not deserve a raise I'm here to say that before we look at spending an extra $400,000 a year on raises we should look first at our island's needs not the government's greed," he stated.

Andri Baynum who is also part of the Guamanians for fair government movement, spoke on behalf of the 1,500 people who signed a petition to repeal the public law allowing for the raises and retroactive pay. He noted how senators salaries went from $55,000 to $60,000 in 2011, and now three years later its up to $85,000 a year. Baynum testified that's a 40% increase in just three years. He added the Guam Legislature is the second highest paid Legislature in the nation second to California with a population of 38 million people. Their senators get paid $90,000 a year, after Guam is the state of Pennsylvania where legislators get paid $84,000 per annum.

"What makes you so special?" challenged Baynum. "Public servants in many jurisdictions throughout the United States are just as committed, hardworking and talented as you but they don't say they deserve to be paid such an insane amount of money to help their people as a matter of fact 41 - out of 50 state legislatures receive under $50,000 a year that's 41 out of 50 states some only receive a couple hundred dollars a year so what I ask you what makes you so special?"

Baynum also testified the bill should be amended to repeal raises for the Executive Branch. He testified for example that the governor's salary of $130,000 is higher than 21 other governors in the country.  Its not clear however whether there will even be time for senators to act on Bill 436 as their term ends this Friday, January 2.
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