Timing of big pay rises for politicians in Guam debated
Guam politicans vote for big pay rises...for themselves.
Lawmakers and elected officials in Guam received some early Christmas cheer with the passing of a bill increasing salaries by up to 45 percent.
The bill increases senators' salaries by nearly 40 percent to 85,000 US dollars.
The governor's salary is boosted by more than 44 percent to 130,000 dollars and his lieutenant's wages are up 29 percent to 110,000.
Koro Vaka'uta looks at the move.
The Lieutenant Governor called the Legislature into a special session last month so that senators could amend a law excluding elected officials and cabinet members from getting a raise. The amended bill was approved by 10 votes to one.
Senator Mike Limtiaco was the only person to vote against the move. He says the increases shouldn't be occurring given the financial strife the island and its people are facing.
MIKE LIMTIACO: There are so many unresolved issues when it comes to the public school system and the current state of our facilities as well as public safety, the current state of our officers and their ability to patrol the villages. The lack of equipment and lack of the number of police officers or whether it's the fire department or the number of ambulances or fire trucks. The current state of our hospital.
Senator Limtiaco says the government is also having trouble providing healthcare to the indigenous on Guam.
A spokesman from the Governor's Office Julius Santos says the salaries had not changed since 1991 so a raise was overdue. Mr Santos says the administration is in a good position to implement the measures now.
JULIUS SANTOS: The Governor has led a very strong administration over the last four years, pulling the island essentially out of a helter-skelter economy and pretty much managing the debt. We structured it and now we are able to manage it. Right now we are just experiencing the positive side effects. With regard to the pay raises, it's not like they were just arbitrarily passed. There is a long term projected budget for this so it is sustainable.
But Senator Limtiaco says added liabilities of 1.2 million dollars related to the administration's Retirement Fund need to be factored in next year which will adversely affect the balance sheet. The senator also says elected officials should not be focussing on wages.
MIKE LIMTIACO:A public service position is not meant to be a career. I've always opposed the idea that we should have career politicians. We should have various sectors of our community represented in our legislature and that requires a rotation of mind and ideas, as well as perspectives.
But Mr Santos says who is represented in the political landscape is up to the public of Guam.
JULIUS SANTOS:That's for the people to decide. It's their job to elect these officials and if the people feel that a certain politician is a quote, unquote 'career politician' then hopefully they will vote him out and vote somebody new in. You are talking about somebody aspiring to be politicians. Now they can aspire all they want but they still need to get the votes to get into office.
Mr Santos says the salary increases are in line with research and recommendations by the Hay Group, a global management consulting firm which examined the US and its territories.
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