Legislation ties certain raises to performance standards
Guam - It was Friday when lawmakers held a nearly four-hour informational briefing on the governor's proposed hay pay raise plan. However, legislation has since been introduced that makes significant changes to the plan such as excluding senators and requiring a performance based standard.
It was on Friday when Senator Michael San Nicolas raised concern over implementing salary increases for management level employees along with the governor, lieutenant governor and even senators when the quality of life for the people of Guam hasn't improved.
He said, "So I introduced Bill 268 so that we can work towards bringing our rank and file employees more up to the national standards, but also that also that we can set up a performance standard for our leadership so that we can encourage all of our leaders to work towards improving the quality of life of our people in order for them to get their raises."
The bill approves the Government of Guam Competitive Wage Act of 2014 but requires a performance-based standard not only for the governor and lieutenant governor, but GovGuam directors and deputy directors along with the attorney general and the public auditor.
"What I want to make sure of though is that if we're going to be comparing salaries, that we're also comparing outcomes," he added.
According to the Proposed Performance Pay Plan, those positions that fall under the requirement shall only get paid after the Civil Service Commission certifies that certain criteria has been met for the last calendar year as it relates to responsible agencies such as whether Guam's quarterly unemployment rate declines, current school year's standardized test scores for DOE students increases compared to the previous school year, crime declines, and medical costs are addressed.
He said, "I think if we do set a standard and give all of our leadership something to work toward and incentivize improving our people's lives, then it's a win-win for our leadership and our community."
This proposal however has drawn criticism as we should note this requirement has exempted senators who under the bill would not be receiving a pay increase either. The Governor's Office has found pegging every elected official's salary increase to performance except for the Guam Legislature is ironic. "It is really the pinnacle of contradiction to hold all elected officials except senators to the same standards that they want to hold others," he noted.
Acting Governor Ray Tenorio says he appreciates the fact that San Nicolas wants to hold accountable standards, however believes the idea doesn't make sense calling into question the logic that went into the bill, questioning, "How is the public auditor supposed to affect unemployment, or how is the attorney general supposed to affect the SATs or the education system - look, we're all one government and we all have some dove telling and different respects that happens because we're supposed to be one cohesive small community work together. But in fact, many jobs really don't affect other outcomes within the community."
He further notes that the only elected officials who ever saw a pay raise in the last 20 years were senators in December 2010 adding it was not based on merit or performance rather on the salary of judges. The Governor's Office has since recommended senators be included in the proposed performance pay plan by deleting their initial pay raise and provide that senators can get their pay raise back if they meet the requirements of the performance pay plan. San Nicolas wasn't a senator when that salary increase was implemented.
"If the governor is proposing that we should take cuts because of certain performance standards are not being met, I'm more than willing to have that conversation again applying it across the board," he said.
And just as senators are exempt from the performance pay plan, so are the mayors. Under the governor's plans, mayors salaries would go from $45,000 to $75,000. Under Bill 268, the salaries of mayors would still increase however only to $56,000. "So we do need to consider giving them an increase along with all our other government employees? But what we also need to balance out is how much that increase is in respect to all the other leadership on the island," he said.
San Nicolas says salaries that mayors currently receive don't reflect the challenges they face and the nominal increase recognizes the work that they do. But why not put it at the amount proposed by the governor's plans? "if I was not a senator and a proposal came out that was going to increase mayors salaries above senators, I would be sitting back, saying that doesn't make a lot of sense to me," he said. "All throughout the United States, a senator, the state legislatures, make less than a mayor because the mayors responsibilities are a lot larger. What's unique to Guam is what a mayor is tasked to do there is no other job description like it in the world."
Mayors Council of Guam vice president and Sinajana mayor Robert Hoffman has issues with Bill 268, saying, "It's disheartening and discouraging because we do a whole lot more than the Legislature and if you even just compare staffing patterns and the salaries they pay their people to do work, and what we get paid to do, it's by far less their people are paid top dollar and for what and during this past heavy rains, and these past few days, weekends included, I really doubt, any single person of Guam was saying hey, let's call our senator up to try and fix our flooding issue, or fix the storm drain or cut down trees."
He adds the amount recommended by the Hay Group is even more than San Nicolas's proposal. The Mayors Council were on hand during Friday's briefing where Hoffman says the freshman senator had asked the mayors to go back as a body and discuss what is an acceptable amount. The bill however was introduced before that meeting could ever take place. Hoffman tells KUAM that San Nicolas had informed him today that the pegged amount is actually not a concrete figure and is open to changing it as a result of that mayors executive meeting this week.
San Nicolas meanwhile adds that in the future if senators ever were to get an increase, he believes it has to go through its own independent scrutiny on whether or not they deserve it at all. A public hearing is set for this Friday on Bill 268 at noon. San Nicolas says he hopes to have the bill heard on this month's session agenda thereafter.