General

Salary bill now goes to governor

THE Senate has passed a bill that would inrease the salaries of the governor, lt. governor and the mayors. House Bill 20-194, which was introduced by Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero, now goes to the governor.

As recommended by an advisory commission, the bill proposed pay hikes for the governor, from $70,000 to $120,000; the lt. governor, from $60,000 to $100,000; and mayors, from $43,000 to $75,000. But there will be no change in the lawmakers’ annual salary which is $39,300.

On Tuesday, six senators voted for the passage of the bill while Sen. Justo Quitugua voted “no.” Rota Sens. Terry Santos and Paul Manglona were absent.

In an interview, Quitugua said he voted no because he believes that lawmakers should get $32,000 a year and not $39,300.  “In the advisory commission’s report and based on the explanation of two of its members, they indicated two findings or recommendations. One was strictly based on the Composite Price Index which recommended a salary of $32,212. Another calculation was based on the hourly wages and the present cost of living standard so the commission came up with a salary adjustment of $47,555. However, the commission neither recommended $32,000 nor $47,000 but decided to keep it at the $39,000 level. If I would support the bill, I want the salary based on the CPI which is $32,000, and that’s why I voted no.”

Quitugua is not receiving his salary as a lawmaker because he prefers to get his pension as a retiree. For the past four years, his salary goes to the scholarship fund to support students.

Quitugua said there was no conflict of interest when they voted on the bill. “The Constitution says that the Legislature that passed it cannot receive the new salary level. The 20th Legislature is the one that passed it but it’s applicable to the 21st Legislature.”

Senate President Arnold I. Palacios, the lt. governor-elect, said the bill’s provision increasing the salaries of the governor and lt. governor was included in Public Law 19-83 which was enacted on Jan. 23, 2017 without the acting governor’s signature. Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres was off-island at the time.

P.L. 19-83, which was challenged in court by the Attorney General’s Office, would have also raised the lawmakers’ annual salary to $70,000. The CNMI Supreme Court ruled that the pay-hike for lawmakers was unconstitutional. But the advisory commission noted that the high court also “upheld the issue of the composition of the 2016 Advisory Commission, the only issue that would have affected the validity of the 2016 recommendation and P.L. 19-83 as it related to the…salary [of the governor, lt. governor and the mayors].”

Palacios said even if the governor signs H.B. 20-194 into law, there would be no conflict of interest because the pay hike was approved by a previous Legislature.

The members of the advisory commission were Tan Holdings vice president Alex A. Sablan, Office of Management and Budget chief Virginia Villagomez, former Sen. Pete P. Reyes, Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero, legislative fiscal analyst Dave Demapan, attorney and former Rep. Rosemond B. Santos and administration consultant Matthew Deleon Guerrero.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/108993-salary-bill-now-goes-to-governor

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