By Gina Tabonares-Reilly
The new Guam law authorizing a 22 percent increase to the general pay plan sets some prerequisites for its implementation, Sen. Frank F. Blas Jr. said, questioning the governor's hasty move to roll out the salary raises effective April 1.
“Your belief that the implementation of the pay raise on April 1 is not affected by the termed 'restrictions' in the bill is totally against the mandate of the law," Blas said in a letter to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
"The 'restrictions' were simply plans that could have been prepared and submitted well within the time that the bill was transmitted to you and when it was signed into law," Blas said.
After signing Bill 24-37 into law on March 31, Leon Guerrero alerted government employees covered by the measure that they could expect bigger paychecks in the coming weeks
The bill, now Public Law 37-3, appropriates $21 million to fund the pay raise through the end of the current fiscal year.
“When you’re starting to see a surplus of $30 million, $45 million, maybe even $100 million, what do we do? What do we do with that money? We invest it right back to you," the governor said.
The bill passed the legislature in a party-line vote.
Blas reminded the governor that Public Law 37-3 requires the submission of plans to address the unpaid merit bonuses and increments to government employees and retirees and her promised financial assistance to struggling businesses.
"The requirements were unambiguous and simplistic. It merely required the submission of plans, not plans that needed to first be discussed and approved by the legislature, simply plans on how your administration intends to address the matters," the Republican senator said.
"The only mention of an April 1st implementation date in P.L. 37-3 is in the legislative intent, which, as you should well know, has no force or effect other than expressing a desire,” Blas said. “There was nothing unconstitutional or inorganic with the Legislature placing conditions to paying the raises."
Blas said the condition set in the law was designed to provide "assurances to individuals who have been patiently waiting for their just compensation and to businesses and their employees praying for financial assistance too."
"Despite your assertion that there was Guam law that existed prior to P.L. 37-3 giving you the authority to start paying the raises, the fact is that the raises could not be effectuated unless there was already a sufficient and dedicated amount in the existing approved budget or until you received the funding as authorized in P.L. 37-3," he said
Blas reminded the governor that the legislature was well within its authority to require conditions prior to the execution of the pay plan.
Blas also slammed the governor for refusing to work with the legislature and her tendency to "just go along with her desired course of action."
“Democracy, as opposed to autocracy, is our form of government that is built on the basic tenets of representation, deliberation, and consent of the governed," Blas said.
"When we neglect or detract from these principles, we selfishly infringe on the confidence and expectations of the community to do what’s right for them," he added.