(Hagatna) – Today, Speaker Benjamin F. Cruz started the public hearing by playing one of the Governor Eddie Baza Calvo’s first addresses he made when he entered into office in 2011. At the time, Guam was facing a $348 million deficit with millions owed in tax refunds, Earned Income Tax Credits, and Child Tax Credits.
Since then, $1.3 billion tax refunds have been paid out, and GovGuam saw surpluses in fiscal years 2012, 2013, and 2016. The government also will see a $17 million surplus for fiscal year 2017 as a result of the administration’s financial management.
Speaker Cruz’s bill 244 cuts back salary adjustments from the Competitive Wage Act of 2014, claiming the government will save $10 million by rolling back the CWA into Fiscal year 2014 – which will put GovGuam employees back at their wages from the 90s.
Our government has made great progress over the last seven years – something that wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of hardworking government employees. However, Speaker’s Bill 244 is willing to punish government employees for a financial situation they did not cause.
During his testimony, Lester Carlson, acting director of BBMR, said cutting back salaries would bring back decades of disparity that CWA 2014 corrected. It also would be unfair to GovGuam employees to take away salaries they rightfully earned and that they have already obligated for mortgages, car payments, or other family needs.
“…together, we can meet this fiscal challenge and do so without affecting the hard earned wages of dedicated public servants,” Carlson said.
The Speaker has said it’s better to have a pay cut than to have no pay at all. However, the Speaker isn’t looking at the bigger picture. Forcing a pay cut will not only hurt government employees – it’ll hurt the businesses they go to, the restaurants they eat at, and the stores they shop at. The Speaker also forgets that bills (i.e. utilities, loans) don’t stop just because your salary dropped.
Approximately 3,000 government employees from the executive branch line agencies, the Legislature and Adelup would be affected by Speaker Cruz’s bill. Salaries of the Judiciary and autonomous agencies would remain untouched – this means only 3,000 of our government employees will be expected to carry the weight of the revenue shortfall.
“Equal cut, equal burden,” Marie Benito, Rev & Tax deputy director, said. “You are only asking hard working line agency employees to understand yet these branches or autonomous education agency personnel salaries exceed what our line employees make. This proposal in essence only targets them to bear the burden.”
Roll back or pay cut?
The language in Bill 244 places a freeze on all CWA salary adjustments. However, Speaker Cruz’s press release paints a different picture and mentions “roll back all salary increases under the Competitive Wage Act of 2014” – if a roll back is what is intended, then GovGuam employees will not only be working for the same pay they made in the 90s, they may also be required to pay back the adjustments they’ve received to date.