Pay raise bill draws heated debate - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Pay raise bill draws heated debate

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Just two months after it was enacted through public law, legislation to repeal raises for elected and appointed officials once again went up for public scrutiny during a heated hearing last night. "Look around you, there are signs - signs that say this measure is clearly a joke," said Guam Youth Congress speaker Lawrence Alcairo.

He's referring to Public Law 32-208, which enacted raises and retro pay for elected leaders and political appointees. Alcairo was testifying in support of Bill 4, introduced by Senator Micheal San Nicolas, which seeks to repeal the very raises given late last year. "I'm not saying this raise isn't merited for a number of individuals," he noted. "What I'm saying is it's not about substance but principle - principle is the difference between under the table and transparency appropriation and stealing, right and wrong."

From youth to more seasoned folks like former senator Bob Klitzie, who says rather than frugality, it seems lawmakers are pursuing royalty instead. "You have set your priorities and shown what you stand for you have raised your salaries to a level where those salaries now rank second in the nation among the salaries of state legislature - a high ranking indeed if the highest senatorial salaries is your priority you have much to be proud of," he shared.

He adds in about a decade, senators' salaries increased from $40,000 to $85,000 without the benefit of a public hearing. But not everyone was in favor of Bill 4 as several department heads came out in opposition. "If passed, Bill 4-33 like Public Law 32-136 will result in the unfair treatment of executive and elected leaders individuals in these positions deserve to be justly paid for their services," he said.

A year ago, DOA director Benita Manglona appeared before senators in support of the GovGuam Competitive Wage Act which saw the final implementation of the Hay plan. Legislation however was passed removing cabinet and elected leaders. For Fire Chief Joey San Nicolas, he says Bill 4 is yet another attempt to reverse a law that has corrected an injustice over many years, saying, "The cabinet positions of the government of Guam are executive level management positions that merit executive level salaries it is a simple justification exemplified in every organization to include private, federal and military except in the Government of Guam executive branch 5529 that's where the focus of the conversation needs to be."

He noted that lawmakers each had a piece in the confirmation of every single cabinet and board member, so they need to take ownership in the performance of the individuals receiving these raises. Public Health director James Gillan adds you have to look at the job and the tasks of each position, saying, "You get what you pay for and if you want to pay minimum, that's what you'll get there was an old joke that said if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys."

Andre Baynum added, "Well, teachers get paid peanuts, police officers get paid peanuts, the line agency worker, the guy out there sweeping the gutter for DPW to make sure the streets don't flood, they get paid peanuts."  While he didn't want to compare who works harder, Baynum, a member of the Guamanians For Fair Government group and teacher at Simon Sanchez High School says the support for bill 4 lies in a simple democratic concept for elected officials. "It simply means you put the needs of the community and the people first," he expressed.

Baynum submitted over 1,600 signatures as part of an online petition against the raises. 
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